Saturday, August 04, 2007

Charlie Bell - If this is the future of the Left...

Cross-posted from CiF Watcher

Charlie Bell's "I'm young but I care" article for Comment is Free is quite the demonstration of why 'grown-up' politicians shouldn't take the voice of 'the youth' too seriously:

"A common response, by one of my friends, to any questions that could possibly touch on the area of politics is: "I don't care - I'm not really interested in politics." But who can blame him? Not a week seems to go by without yet another depressing statistic about today's youth in this country. Not only do we have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe, but the Institute for Public Policy Research has just released a report that brands British teenagers the worst behaved in Europe. With gun crime, drug taking and binge drinking never far away from the headlines, we must be an appalling generation."

That's a complete non sequitur. There is no reason to expect that depressing statistics make people less likely to engage with politics. If things are going alright already why try to make a difference? By contrast, serious problems like those identified by the IPPR suggest that getting involved is worthwhile.

"And even those who claim to be in touch with the youth miss the point. The famous "hug-a-hoodie" idea (unfairly attributed to the Conservatives) highlights this - just because people wear a hoodie and hang around with their friends doesn't mean the next thing they'll be doing is smashing up a cafe or binge drinking. You don't see police community support officers marching up to Costa or Starbucks and breaking up a group of middle-aged women simply because they are all wearing jeans. It sounds ridiculous, but the only reason needed to stop young people who are innocently walking the streets is an item of clothing. And that makes us the terrible generation?"

This is staggeringly ignorant:

  • Middle-aged women wearing jeans don't terrorise the law-abiding, particularly senior citizens, into staying at home after dark.
  • The 'hoodie' isn't just one more item of clothing. It has a particular function in hiding the wearer's face that aids criminality, petty or serious. That is why it is associated with criminality and rightly causes suspicion.
  • Just because not all those wearing hoodies are trouble does not mean suspicion is ill-founded.
"We are the IT-literate generation, the generation that will (seemingly to the horror of the media) eventually take over as this country's leaders. Maybe those who constantly talk of saving the world for "our children and grandchildren" should wake up and realise that's us. We are the future, and we need to be included. Every time someone young comes up with a new idea, they are beaten down for being inexperienced. Take David Cameron, for example. It's taboo to talk about elderly statesmen being too old for the job, for fear of being ageist, but the moment a young politician or commentator opens his mouth to speak, they are criticised for being too young to have any worthwhile ideas."

'Charlie' is clearly too young to remember the last election. Michael Howard faced frequent criticism for being too old. He is also clearly too poorly informed to have noticed the masses of criticism Menzies Campbell has faced for his age. Eric Forth's shouting "declare your interest" during an early question Campbell was trying to ask the Prime Minister on pensions was a particular high point. By contrast, David Cameron used his relative youth as a selling point in the Conservative leadership election.

"The answer is simple - young people feel strongly about things that will affect them. Climate change is going to flood my house, not that of my grandmother."

Actually even under Stern's "alarmist and incompetent" (PDF) analysis, it isn't myself and Charlie's generation that will pay the price for climate change. As Nordhaus noted the majority of the harms Stern identifies come after 2800. With decent flood defences and if he avoids living in an eco-town on a flood plain he should be fine.

If this is the future of the Left politics is about to get fun if infuriating.

No comments: