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Labour has broken Gen Z’s heart Moral purists can't cope with Starmer's realpolitik

I've come a long way from throwing up at Corbyn rallies. Matt Cardy/Getty Images

I've come a long way from throwing up at Corbyn rallies. Matt Cardy/Getty Images


June 10, 2024   6 mins

Summer has finally arrived in London. Beer gardens are packed, Lime bikes whizz through disgruntled traffic. There is a quiet optimism: the election is soon. For the first time that we can remember, we might not have a Tory government. Great, right? But for Gen Z, it isn’t that simple.

“Starmer’s a Left-leaning Tory in a red tie,” a 23-year-old medical student tells me. She’ll vote Labour, but only so that “the real Left will come in time”. One lad working in sales, celebrating his 24th birthday on the Bermondsey beer mile, takes it further: “Starmer has demonstrated authoritarian tendencies,” he insists (presumably I missed the speech where he advocated Führerprinzip). Another young woman, boozily reminiscing about Corbyn, remarks that the former Labour leader’s flirtation with Hezbollah was admissible as “the IRA were terrorists and we like them!” Later, she anxiously corrects the record, saying her concerns were that Starmer’s policies were “super Tony Blair New Labour”. “Also Palestine,” she adds.

Although Starmer is predicted to win a sizeable majority by battling for the centre ground, it seems that for Gen Z the choice to vote Labour, our age group’s electoral home, is shot through with guilt about relinquishing ideological purity. In 2019, 56% of 18 to 24-year-olds voted for Corbyn; Starmer is looking at a similarly strong 54% — but how many of these are holding their noses? In what will be the first general election in which many of this new generation vote, Starmer looms large as a symbol of Instagram idealism colliding with voter-friendly pragmatism. I suspect that it is precisely because progressives are a whisker away from power that the mainstream Left seems so, well, unfashionable.

What are young voters’ concerns? Many cannot forgive Starmer for refusing to take a hard line on Israel, or neglecting to adopt radical positions on gender. For me, the dropping of the £28 billion-a-year green pledge was among the greatest blows. There is no doubt that these concerns are both legitimate and personal.

My politics are not what they were when I was 18, throwing up on my brothel creepers at a Corbyn rally. But I do not resent my generation for having ambitious ideals, or even for staking our country’s political future on them. Starmer’s pointed silence on Gaza, for example, has come up again and again with young voters I question; passivity on this issue has undoubtedly been a bad look for a Labour Party which still relies heavily on the youth vote and surely trusts the electorate to be mature enough to distinguish between opposing Netanyahu and antisemitism.

During a panel event in February, Alastair Campbell told an audience member who was hesitant about voting for Starmer over his refusal to condemn Israel’s actions in Gaza: “Get off your high horse and vote Labour… There’s no such thing as a perfect candidate.” He observed that Starmer was probably considering his “political capital” with Joe Biden. But such realpolitik is unacceptable for many Gen Zs. Instead, we get statements like this: “It is in your self-interest to emotionally divest from the Labour Party,” which a friend posts on Instagram.

We should be deeply suspicious of a culture which throws up phrases such as this, imagining the slack-jawed doom scroller as a one-man institution with a spiritual investment portfolio. Labour will, I’m sure, be quaking in their boots at the likely ripples of political change resulting from “emotional divestment” (translation: smirking at the mention of Rachel Reeves in an Old Street smoking area). But the impotence of this protest is precisely the point: it is better to be pure and passive than sully your image with a party that contains a diversity of views on complex issues. This is the natural result of a culture of binary thinking (me woke, you Nazi!) which disingenuously sorts policy questions into “Tory” and “good”. For Gen Z, voting is another element of tribal identity-building which, as my friend’s story made unintentionally clear, is rooted in self-interest.

“Labour will, I’m sure, be quaking in their boots at the likely ripples of political change resulting from ’emotional divestment'”

If you’re young and on Instagram, I can guarantee that you have been bombarded with cutesy mock-ups with slogans such as Keir Starmer is Tory scum (courtesy of the account “Colourful Activist”) — set in a story-friendly border of spring flowers. As newspaper readers tank, these posts are what is truly pushing Gen Z pencils at the polling station: an Ofcom study in March found 71% of 16 to 24-year-olds got their news from social media, with the most common site — 44% — being Instagram. This is the realm of saintly slacktivists who have “done the work” in educating themselves through infographics. Calling a lifelong Labour member Tory scum works because it makes you feel good: it’s as if you see a truth that the lamestream are blind to; it makes you feel clever, and doesn’t require any further reading to inspire a ripple of knowing nods among your friends. But in reality it makes you little better than the Boomers who bleat: “They’re all idiots, the lot of them.” It’s a way of disengaging, neglecting responsibility and scurrying away from complexity with a smug grin.

Under Corbyn, Labour gained more votes than usual in safe seats. By moving to the centre, the party is hedging its bets and wooing more of the country. But moderation is not without risk: one problem with seeming like a “safe pair of hands” is that you must be willing to flirt with unsavoury international partners. For the shadow foreign secretary, this meant posting a cosy congratulations tweet on Wednesday to Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, following his re-election. David Lammy’s followers were less than enamoured by his fawning over the Hindu nationalist’s “historic third term”.

It is difficult to imagine a Corbyn administration producing such a tweet. Indeed, one of the big reasons why Labour lost in 2019 was that they weren’t trusted on national security. But for many young voters, to co-operate with — or be complicit in — a problematic foreign power is yet more proof of what others cannot see: that this Labour administration must be, in a word, scum.

The gender debate inspires a similar display of moral perfectionism. Labour’s refusal to condemn the Cass Report as a foaming piece of transphobic hatred is, in some circles, enough to turn off progressive voters who would rather leave the Tories and Reform to gobble up a Labour majority. It seems that to accommodate the intricacies of modern identity politics, Gen Z would require a party to perfectly align with every one of its obsessions instead of simply embracing pluralism. In such a climate, the concept of a broad church withers on the vine at the exact time when unity, rather than division, is sorely needed. The Fabian economist G.D.H. Cole advocated for a “broad human movement on behalf of the bottom dog”; such broadness seems totally incompatible with the brittle, sneering inflexibility of modern youth movements.

Many Gen Zs feel they cannot take the risk of engaging with a moderate reality rather than an ideologically pure fantasy, preferring to cling on to the what-could-have-been of Momentum, which spoiled before making a single difference. It may be the result of a fear of cancellation, of looking lame or fascist, but this ironically drives its proponents into a savage and inflexible political morality which is entirely intolerant of diverse views and the wisdom of realpolitik.

Starmer has sensibly steered clear of these psychodramas — and is instead conquering the statesmanlike centre ground. His PR victory over Sunak on Friday, after the Prime Minister left a D-Day event in Normandy early for an interview with ITV, crystallised this battle: “Rishi Sunak will have to answer for his choice,” he said. “For me, there was only one choice.” Starmer understands that the public’s yearning for conservatism is all about steadfastness and symbolism, and winning these skirmishes — though a million miles away from the issues rocking Gen Z — will matter most among undecided middle-aged voters.

Yet having suffered through the unelectable, incorrigible Corbyn years, it should be clear to progressives that a Labour which does not cling to “extreme” positions is the best, and only, way forward. Many friends, put off by Starmer’s moderation, intend to vote Green or for an independent to “send a message”. But to choose smaller parties in non-tactical “protest” is to insist on pointless perfectionism: such votes work best with proportional representation; we have first-past-the-post and, as a result, to vote independent out of spite is to piss in the wind.

Sticking your neck out for a party which is not perfect is a risk, and if and when the first scandal hits a future Labour government, those who shunned them can remain smugly unblemished. But do this at your peril: those lost votes may just be enough to dampen or squander the greatest opportunity a progressive party has had in years. The greatest problem for Gen Zs surveying their electoral options on 4 July will be that our old-school two-party system cannot keep up with the 1,000 online causes that buffet them each day. If politics has become swept up in identity-building, used as a mirror for our cherished individualism, then how can we expect young people to throw their weight behind something as messy and plural as a party?


Poppy Sowerby is an editor and writer covering politics and culture.

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Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
7 days ago

After reading this, I would support raising the voting age to at least 25 if not 30. While I was certainly more left-leaning in my twenties, at least I understood that public services are dependent on the productive parts of the economy, utopian ideas lead to stagnant tyranny, and humans are sexually dimorphic animals. And I never ‘liked’ the IRA, or any other bunch of terrorists for that matter.

Orlando Skeete
Orlando Skeete
7 days ago

Those were my thoughts exactly as well.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 day ago
Reply to  Orlando Skeete

Then I feel sorry for you as well. Do you recall when you had a heart and a time before you sold your soul? I guess you’re fully mature now and have no need for either?

Peter B
Peter B
7 days ago

Reading this, I found myself asking myself if we also believed and wrote such drivel when we were young.
Anything useful in this article could be condensed down to five sentences. The rest just seems like exhibitionism.
I’m guessing the author must be at least 25. Rather too old to be writing something like this and expcting to be taken seriously:
“Sticking your neck out for a party which is not perfect is a risk”

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
7 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

We did not spend our days pondering agonizingly whether or not we were actually cats, or any the other 28 off the shelf identities available. Their poor heads via the smartphone sewer are swimming with existential apocalyptic tosh, with the world set to be engulfed in fire in 20 odd years and their inherited skin colour (white) denoting a raycist imperial mind and slaver past.

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Perhaps not, but some of my feminist friends did anguish over whether it was ok to wear makeup, shave your legs or, god forbid, wear nice underwear. Or would this just be catering to male, patriarchal views of femaleness?

it’s intensified of late, but it’s still recognisable.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 day ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

While you expressed it in negative terms I think you focused in well on your own sad shortcomings..

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
12 hours ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

His speciality is making grand sweeping statements against the young and hopeful without putting a fact behind a word of it. Can’t blame him though really – it goes down very well on here.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
7 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

Reading this, I found myself asking myself if we also believed and wrote such drivel when we were young.

In one sense, yes.
I can remember in my youth demanding official recognition for the sacrifice of some group of revolutionaries in a far-away place I had never been to, had zero connection to me, and I must confess I cannot now exactly remember the details of.
What mattered most at the time was that the purity and intensity with which I espoused their cause had social currency. It gave my personality a kind of shape which people I wanted to be with and like approved of.
The difference is that back then we didn’t have social media to amplify and accelerate these performative stances and turn them into a mass social economy of approval and likes.

Peter B
Peter B
7 days ago

Yes, I can remember that. But more a longing that there would be some noble cause worth serving, more than the need to belong. And the certainty that the world was perfectible and all the chaos and contradictions were the result of incompetent humans rather than the natural state of affairs. Perhaps fortunate I never found a cause and saved the time and energy.
Perhaps the decreasing emphasis on practical skills in education is also a factor.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
7 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

Perhaps the decreasing emphasis on practical skills in education is also a factor.

Hadley Freeman makes a similar point in her Times article this weekend: that there is an over-supply of arts and humanities graduates who are no longer able to find well-paid, secure jobs in the areas like publishing and media which they were led to expect.
Middle-class activism is therefore a response to this perceived betrayal. While at the same time one can see that activism itself can become the career, as manifestly demonstrating the “correct” social justice positions is increasingly part of the CV for advancement within public sector, charity sector, and campaigning organisations like left-wing think tanks.

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago

Sound plausible. Well with AI it’s only going to get worse.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 day ago
Reply to  Peter B

While the world, a you rightly say, is not ‘perfectable’ I fail to see the merit is making it worse than it already is with heartless, soulless, zombie like, slavish adherence..

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 days ago

Basically that is now called virtue signalling- a result of Social Media- and a way for the young to to be part of the team.
University politics is just kids playing and its not a sign of growing up its the sign of wanting to be loved.
.JC was unelectable and UK would have been the ;laughing stock of the world with him in charge. However if not in power you cant influence anything and Starmer- as much as I think he is a wet fart and a stooge – realises that and will win with a big majority
Tories need to go in any case as they are old and tired and nobody able to take over.
Should be a fun 6 weeks

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Yes – in a nutshell!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 day ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

JC was entirely electable and would have been elected had he not been stabbed in the back by his Blairite, treacherous colleagues (esp. Starmer) and relentlessly hounded by the merciless, moral-free media. Laughing stock indeed! ..not like the Tories who ‘stole’ the election.. they were ideal weren’t they? Not like the US’s Biden and Trump you all feel the need to brown nose. No, they are all ideal but Corbyn, by comparison would have been a laughing stock would he! Really? Are you sure?

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago

Sounds familiar. Unlike some on here, I think we invented this stuff and are now just watching it play out. What was student politics before now plays out on the world stage.

John Dellingby
John Dellingby
7 days ago

Can’t help but agree with much of that, although in my case, getting into political debates with my Dad who would explain why you can’t lower taxes and massively spend did help. I too was also very curious about this lady’s point saying “we liked the IRA”. Who is “we” exactly?

Martin M
Martin M
7 days ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

Who is “we” exactly? The Hard Left. They liked any terrorist or dictator who “opposed the West”.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 day ago
Reply to  Martin M

You think the IRA oppose the West?

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
7 days ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

Likewise, my mother would simply point out that when certain ideas or courses of action had been adopted, the outcomes were neither was was intended nor in any way desirable.

Peter B
Peter B
7 days ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

It is bizarre. These people are under 30 and can have no knowledge of the IRA.
I’m trying to remember a book I read about 1988 by an IRA veteran who described just how much the IRA was actually a violent, Some may have joined for noble reasons. But the reality was quite different. This book cured forever any delusions I may have had about what this organisation was.

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
7 days ago

Supporting popular social democratic policies in the mould of those in (more prosperous) western European countries (such as higher corporate tax, higher spending on health and housing) – utopian and tyrannous indeed. After reading your comment I would support capping the voting age at 50.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
7 days ago
Reply to  Desmond Wolf

Are you suggesting that I cannot differentiate between social democracy and utopian thinking? The countries that you are presumably referring to normally have strong, export-led economies and, until recently, were decidedly homogeneous. In what way is stating that you need a healthy, prosperous private sector to fund public services incorrect?

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
7 days ago

Not anymore (since you just demonstrated you know the difference). My point though is that Corbyn’s policies not only polled well with the electorate but were social democratic rather than socialist/utopian. I agree you need a good private sector (the countries I’m referring to have that, but also spend more on public services and have greater redistribution), but I don’t think resisting or trying to reverse privatisation of key industries makes Corbyn a utopian. Name a good example of privatisation that has worked out well for the taxpayer. Rail? Mail? Housing? Health? Gas? Water? I could go on. Maybe British Airways is an exception (though they still haven’t refunded me for my flight they cancelled during lockdown…)

Last edited 7 days ago by Desmond Wolf
Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
7 days ago
Reply to  Desmond Wolf

Health? It’s an awful nationalised industry with the worst health outcomes for the population of any western democracy, most of which have a strong market led element i.e. you pay something directly for the service you get. State ownership/direction is unfortunately unavoidable where a natural monopoly exists but it always comes at a heavy cost. The average public servant knows he/she is going to get his/her money at the end of each month and a decent pension at the end of their working life (and often before), without having to make much effort at all. At least, that is my experience in about four different jobs (and, yes, I moved on asap).

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
7 days ago
Reply to  Jos Haynes

‘the worst health outcomes for the population of any western democracy’ – and the fact that we spend far less than other western democracies? Whether other western European countries perform better because of greater privatisation or greater state spending is unclear to me. The woeful case of the US certainly suggests that privatisation alone is a disaster.
We spend a 5th less per capita than France and Germany – whose health systems are so mistakeny admired by those who want to spend less on the NHS. That and the fact that these social insurance systems do mean the poor end up having worse health care are trade-offs that aren’t acknowledged by those who believe in the infallibility of the market = better outcomes formula.
Not only are there examples abroad to look to when making the case for higher spending, but also our own history; under Blair, NHS spending went up, and, low and behold, so did healthcare outcomes. To accomodate your points, the IFS report which reviewed spending under the Blair years does say that ‘this increase in measured public service outputs [was] less than the increase in inputs over the same period.’ In other words, ‘productivity [had] fallen,’ although this is also attributed to greater costs in buying equipment and an aging population. Spending was increased by 56% over a period which saw a ‘one-third increase in the quantity and quality of public services’). So not perfect, BUT outcomes did improve considerably. 
I also don’t believe that people in the public sector necessarily work less hard than those in the private sector – made-up, non-jobs are endemic to both, as Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs documents. My experience – different to yours perhaps – is that where people understand they are making an impact they tend to be motivated to work harder than required. As a teacher I know virtually no colleague who works less than the hours on their contract, but I suppose we’d need studies to confirm. I just think most people enjoy being effective if given the chance (children and adults!).

Last edited 7 days ago by Desmond Wolf
Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
7 days ago
Reply to  Desmond Wolf

The woeful case of the US certainly suggests that privatisation alone is a disaster.
That must be why Canadians routinely cross the border for care they would otherwise wait months to get. Moreover, it’s a bit much to expect “the health care system” to undo decades of lousy personal habits.
Americans’ problem is not a privatized system, it’s being slugs who seldom raise their heads from a smartphone screen let alone raises their asses from a couch, all the while shoving down large quantities of garbage. But, sure; the system is to blame.

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I assume that’s Canadians with money.

Alison R Tyler
Alison R Tyler
7 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

I expect so ,otherwise they may have no option but to choose medically assisted dying.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 day ago
Reply to  David Morley

Given the humongous cost of US health care I’m guessing Canadians with lots and lots of money!

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
6 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Yes the US system is great for the very richest – I won’t deny that.
Unhealthy lifestyles I’m sure play a role in some cases, but not always in the way we intuitively imagine. Consider how one of the chief reasons for rising costs for the NHS is an aging population and the palliative care required to manage the number one killer which right now is dementia – that’s actually a product of a healthier not an unhealthier population (in the sense that we are living longer). Whereas studies have shown that unhealthy habits like smoking can actually save health services money by bringing about earlier deaths. So in short I’m not convinced that unhealthy lifestyles are a net cost for health services, though of course healthier, more purposeful lives should be encouraged and the extra costs for managing the end of those lives accounted for.

Last edited 6 days ago by Desmond Wolf
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 day ago
Reply to  Desmond Wolf

Now you’re confusing the issue with cold hard facts.. that’s not fair; he was enjoying his rant and now you’ve spoiled it!

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
7 days ago
Reply to  Desmond Wolf

Last time I looked, the share of GDP spent on health was about the same in France as in the UK. But that is not the point. It’s where the money comes from and where it goes to. Wastage in the NHS is extremely high. I have lived in France & Australia, in both which the patient pays a proportion of the bill (except for the “poor”). In France, I could get same-day blood tests and results on the internet before 9.00am the following day. I also had a choice of consultants and could see one usually within a few days. Have you visited a NHS hospital recently without being on a long waiting list? Let people choose where to put their money. For some it might be long holidays, or beer, or whatever. For others, it will be on their health and medical treatment. But no – we all have to queue up, the deserving and undeserving, the profligate and the thrifty, the careless and the careful.
So you’re a teacher and you work the hours of your contract. Bully for you. And the effort put into those (shorter than average) hours? I was once a lecturer and I can assure you there were some very lazy lecturers, usually much higher up the pay scale than me. Yes, they went up the pay scale every year automatically. The same in the public service where I also worked. If you have only ever worked as a teacher, then your experience is too limited to take your utterances seriously, except on teaching.

Last edited 7 days ago by Jos Haynes
Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
2 days ago
Reply to  Jos Haynes

Last time I looked, the share of GDP spent on health was about the same in France as in the UK.
Well you haven’t looked very recently as in response to you I had posted a link showing that we spend far less than France and Germany.
It’s where the money comes from and where it goes to.
How do you know that the system is better just because individuals rather than the state pay for it? In France, Germany and the Netherlands they have a social health insurance system which means everyone has to pay health insurance (it’s not really any different to a tax except that the poorest are covered by the state). So people don’t really get to choose.
we all have to queue up, the deserving and undeserving, the profligate and the thrifty, the careless and the careful.
This assumption that bad health is the fault of those who have it is an assumption I see time and again on here which is odd given research which shows that living unhealthily does not necessarily cost a health system more. In the case of smoking for example, the earlier death it hastens actually costs syetems less (whereas a heathy life can cost more in long palliative or oncological care).
If you have only ever worked as a teacher, then your experience is too limited to take your utterances seriously, except on teaching.
What I have to say about teaching and the hours most teachers put in (having taught at only a few schools) means very little compared to what someone who has read or conducted multiple studies has to say. It is only anecdotal (as I made clear). I’m amazed that as a former lecturer you think anecdote more powerful than data.

Alison R Tyler
Alison R Tyler
7 days ago
Reply to  Jos Haynes

Indeed and if it becomes/ already is the only option available, it is then run by and for solely those who work in the sector and not for the good of the public who pay for it.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 day ago
Reply to  Jos Haynes

You fancy the US model? That’s what the Torys tried to put over on you guys.. wouldn’t surprise me if Starmer does it anyway!

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
7 days ago
Reply to  Desmond Wolf

Ok, I wan’t necessarily referring to Corbyn and more to countries where what began as an idealistic and utopian project soon ended in abject misery. For some reason, people from many different generations, including my own, have often sung the praises of these societies, even in the face of evidence that life there was far from easy. Privatisations are a mixed bag. I would certainly add UK telecommunications as an example of a privatisation that worked. I would support bringing all water networks back under government control, but any such initiative will be very costly. Selling social housing gave a lot of ordinary people a secure asset and also took the responsibility for the upkeep of the housing stock off the local authorities’ books. Whether or not more social housing should have been or currently needs to be built is a valid point. The argument that all of the best stock was sold, which contributed to the concentration of often dysfunctional people in the worst accommodation should also not be ignored (although I don’t know what the solution is). I’m generally not of the opinion that there was a golden age of public ownership pre 1980s and am (just) old enough to remember that world.
Anyway, good luck with the refund.

George Venning
George Venning
7 days ago

To your point that the privatisation of telecoms was a notable success.
It hasn’t been a disaster (at least compared to some of the others) but here is a story for you.
Back in the 80s, the UK was one of only three countries squaring up to convert all their copper wire telecoms to fibre optic. Such a vast project required vertical integration. The GPO needed to own the factories that made the fibre, employ the installers, build the exchanges and manage the whole system. That vast, sprawling enterprise was deemed too complex, too long term and too risky to be compatible with privatisation so the project was shelved.
The other two nations involved begged us not to abandon this risky and cutting edge investment – they wanted to continue co-operation with an industrial peer – but to no avail. BT was sold off and the conversion to fibre was delayed by 25 years.
Who were those industrial peers and how did they fare in the emerging field of communications and consumer electronics? Japan and South Korea.
I don’t know for sure whether having by far the finest internet connectivity in the western (and especially english-speaking) world might have contributed to faster growth in the British economy but it’s certainly possible.

George Venning
George Venning
7 days ago

“Selling social housing gave a lot of ordinary people a secure asset and also took the responsibility for the upkeep of the housing stock off the local authorities’ books”
Correct, Right to Buy was initially a Labour policy. The policy itself wasn’t stupid or wicked. The problem was the insistance that Local Authorities be prevented from using the money to replace the cheap homes.
The result wasn’t just “residualisation” – the concentration of the poorest people in the least desirable properties – but a fundamental shortage of homes at affordable prices. Consequently, the state is increasingly forced to use the private sector to house people who cannot afford private rents. This was foreseen at the time and we were told that “Housing Benefit would take the strain.” Fast forward to now and we spend £16bn /annum on HB, much of it on properties that were originally Council houses but which have been sold off to private landlords.
This is the madness of small state ideology.

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago
Reply to  George Venning

Add in the fact that attractive social housing at affordable rent acts as a dampener on house prices.

George Venning
George Venning
7 days ago
Reply to  Desmond Wolf

FYI, the UK spends the highest % of GDP on housing benefit of any economy in the GDP and the lowest % on capital investment for housing.
In plain English, we spend almost 1% of GDP (£16bn/annum) on subsidising the rents of those unable to afford suitable housing. Even then, that money is wildly inadequate and much of it flows directly into the pockets of private landlords.
And yet, we spend almost no money subsidising the construction of new affordable homes (£2.3bn/annum). This is despite the fact that all the money invested in new Social Rented housing is eventually returned to the exchequer and that the debt free-affordable homes then become assets.
Put another way, investment in Social Housing is precisely that – a profitable investment for the state. And yet, we haven’t been making that investment for a decade despite a profound housing crisis.
Anyone who thinks that lunatic “ideology” flying in the face of common sense is a primarily left wing phenomenon needs to have a chat with themselves.

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago
Reply to  George Venning

Yes it was a one trip, one way only gravy train. Great for those who rode it. Terrible for anyone coming after. That landlords are getting rich on tax payers money is absolutely shocking.

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
6 days ago
Reply to  George Venning

Yes and for the same reason anyone who thinks that Tory governments since Thatcher can in any way describe themselves as small state needs the same conversation. The state is in many ways ballooning, but not in ways that can be called socialist, as some critics on the right like to say. The excess spending takes the form of the billions you mention going on landlords (why Thatcher, didn’t you listen to Heseltine on the Right to Buy), to incompetent management consultants (see the £29bn on dysfunctional test and trace) and in grants to big business). This is state expansion done in the service of those who derive their money from wealth, not work. In a word – neoliberalism.

Last edited 6 days ago by Desmond Wolf
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 day ago
Reply to  Desmond Wolf

I agree but not the way you mean (?) ..I would ban over 50s from voting for many reasons not least their greed, heartless complacency, low morals, little sense of decency, soulless and often mindless world views such as what is on display here..
Politics is (or used to be) about making things better for the greater good; not stuffing the pockets of the already filthy rich, greedy, narcissistic, self-satisfied, pitiless, supremacist, racist degenerates such as is the case today.

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
12 hours ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

I didn’t really mean it since I wouldn’t advocate that. My point was more that if I had to ban some people from voting and allow others to continue I would choose the under 25s over the over 50s based on my daily exposure to Unherd comments. My gran – the only leftist at her bowls club (and the only member who seems aware of the actual policies of political parties) – would agree to it.

Last edited 12 hours ago by Desmond Wolf
Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
7 days ago

Poppy will vote Labour because Poppy is middle class and Labour is the party of the graduate middle class. That is why there is nothing in either this article or the Labour Party’s policy that will address the central problem of both society and economy in 2024 Britain: the ever more rapid concentration of the country’s wealth – unearned – in the hands of Poppy’s parents and, eventually, in hers. The Gaza/gender stuff is just fashionable deflection.

Btw: could there be anything more depressing than article by someone from gen Z that approvingly quotes Alastair Campbell? Terrifying.

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
7 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

If young middle class voters like Poppy want ‘the ever more rapid concentration of the country’s wealth – unearned – in the hands of [their] parents,’ account for the fact that so many voted for Corbyn, when he was promising substantial redistribution.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
6 days ago
Reply to  Desmond Wolf

Not even Corbyn dared to propose taxing the family home.

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

It is very noticeable that “left” as the young now use it (indeed as almost everyone now uses it) seems to have little to do with social class (or position if you prefer) – even at a time when we are moving back towards more class based society.

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
7 days ago

I don’t resent the younger generation for having ambitious ideals: I’m just bewildered. How can unattainable, impractical, bankrupting policies be ambitious ideals?

While experts can exhibit political bias, to propose national policies on Legacy Media, like the BBC, with no expertise, not even A level, does demean the conversation. It crowds out any useful information. Discussion should aim to produce better understanding, and a credible solution, not just to make people feel better. Most of the current problems stem from this mistake, with all the NET Zero policies being obvious examples. They were bound to fail, but when Arts, Humanities and Social Science graduates mistakenly think that Intelligence is a valid substitute for Knowledge and Experience, we have problems.

RA Znayder
RA Znayder
6 days ago

I don’t see a lot of Utopian ideas here though. That said, I don’t believe Utopian always to tyrannies either. Sure they can but the enlightenment is full of utopian ideas and this arguably led to the biggest leap humans ever made.

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
6 days ago

You dislike democracy. That is very clear. Fortunately the voting age is going to be lowered so people like you will have t suck it up.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 day ago

I wonder if you consider British soldiers fighting alongside the French Resistance as “terrorists” or is that different?

Buck Rodgers
Buck Rodgers
7 days ago

I’ll take these clowns seriously when they stop treating Palestine like a domestic issue. I am sick to the back teeth of hearing about Palestine in general, but especially in the context of domestic U.K. politics.

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
7 days ago
Reply to  Buck Rodgers

Totally agree but unfortunately thanks to the traitors who have ruled us for the last 27 years it is now a domestic issue.

David McKee
David McKee
7 days ago

Gen Z can posture all it likes, but when it comes to voting, it’s bone idle. In 2019, barely 50% voted. By contrast, 80% of boomers voted.

Turnout in 2024 will be low. I’ll predict 70% for boomers, and maybe 30% for Gen Z. As things stand, the boomer vote is worth courting. Gen Z, with it’s silly student politics and electoral laziness, is best ignored.

John Dellingby
John Dellingby
7 days ago
Reply to  David McKee

And in many ways, you demonstrate exactly why next to no major politician or party gives a toss about young people. They don’t vote while older people do. Although, like you, I think turnout will be low, likely less than 60%.

George Venning
George Venning
7 days ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

Of course boomers vote, the political world is has been built around them. As much education as you could stomach for free, whilst you were maintained and housed by the state, followed by secure jobs, incomes that went up faster than inflation, cheap home ownership, leading to unearned housing wealth. And then, when they retired, defined benefit pensions, and now, the triple lock.
No party has offered anything like this to the youth vote for decades. What was it that brought an ambitious young Tony Blair to public notice? His “clause 4” moment – an unambiguous statement that he had accepted the Thatcherite consensus and that voters should not expect the state to manage society for our benefit.
Any party that wanted the youth vote could claim it in six months if they could offer a credible vision of the country with cheaper housing, better wages and less debt.

D Glover
D Glover
7 days ago
Reply to  George Venning

Any party that wanted the youth vote could claim it in six months if they could offer a credible vision of the country with cheaper housing, better wages and less debt.

Er, no. Cheaper housing and better wages would only be obtained by halting mass migration, which the youth vote would consider revoltingly fascistic.

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
7 days ago
Reply to  D Glover

Only achievable by halting mass migration! And all those western European countries which have cheaper housing and higher wages because of greater state land purchasing powers, more social housing and stronger trade unions? But oh no, never mind those options, let’s not suggest anything that upsets the super rich running our media.

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
7 days ago
Reply to  Desmond Wolf

Better wages would require wealth creation, traditionally, manufacturing, with plenty of STEM apprenticeships. Much too hard today’s world, where a degree in an Arts, Humanities or Social Science, which will make you less employable, is still the attractive goal of the school leaver.

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
6 days ago

People on here like to lazily dismiss arts education as a form of woke brainwashing but I think the arts and humanities should be encouraged where people have a genuine interest because it helps create a population that is critical of its government, able to dispute truth claims and dares to imagine alternative systems. The UK also has a competetive advantage in the arts (think music, theatre, the West End etc) so we should be aiming to expand arts education.
But since I think deindustrialisation is part of our decline I completely agree that there should be more funding for STEM apprenticeships and a restoration of the dignity of manual/industrial labour (the loss of which has pushed people into arts degrees they might not be suited to).

D Glover
D Glover
7 days ago
Reply to  Desmond Wolf

The UK has the same population as France in half the land area; twice the population density. Spain has a far lower density. Most countries do.
When you say ‘state land purchasing’ what land are thinking of? Do you want to build on farmland? Nature reserves? Where do you want to build all these houses?
We are getting tight on water supply. Where shall we put the required new reservoirs? And then there are all the new power stations……

Last edited 7 days ago by D Glover
Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
6 days ago
Reply to  D Glover

Most of the UK is undeveloped (only 9% is urban), though that may not be the impression when living in towns. So yes, farmland, the ‘green’ belt (not so green, see Rees-Mogg’s report on the matter for the IEA). Take your points about Germany and France but the Netherlands is far denser than us and does a better job with housing with its zoning planning system, stronger renters’ rights and larger social housing sector. After World War II we built 32 new towns, including Milton Keynes and Stevenage – we should renew that kind of ambition.
Also interesting the assumption on here that lower immigration will lead to greater housing availability, when, amidst the UK’s demographic collapse, the necessary expansion of housing (and of other failing key sectors) benefits from and my even depend on immigrant labour.

D Glover
D Glover
6 days ago
Reply to  Desmond Wolf

‘Only 9% is urban’ but we have to import 45% of what we eat. This is true despite British farming being intensive and very efficient. As our population rises year on year, we will need even more imported food. Where else could we grow it?
Your statement that ‘Most of the UK is undeveloped’ means ‘not built on’. That does not mean it is virgin prairie awaiting its first plough. We can’t grow more food, and we can hardly afford to pay for more imported.
I’m also baffled that you combine ‘demographic collapse’ with ‘necessary expansion of housing’. If the population was not increasing we wouldn’t need more houses, would we?

Last edited 6 days ago by D Glover
Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
6 days ago
Reply to  D Glover

There is plenty of space on the so called green belt for building that would not be a missed farming opportunity. But I’m interested as I’ve never heard this objection to building – you really think it’s a threat to our ability to feed ourselves? Could I see where you have read this argument? Could it not be that this high percentage of food imports is more a reflection of exotic tastes than of our inability to farm more efficiently? The Netherlands is far more densely populated yet is the second biggest exporter of food outright, in the world. I’m sure building the number of houses we need does not necessarily lead to hunger as you imagine, both because the land proposed for building would not be suitable for farming and because even if it was how can it be we wouldn’t be able to feed ourselves while the Netherlands can feed not only itself but much of the world, whilst also having a way denser population?
I’m also baffled that you combine ‘demographic collapse’ with ‘necessary expansion of housing’. If the population was not increasing we wouldn’t need more houses, would we?
You shouldn’t be baffled if I explain my meaning: demographic collapse refers to the declining birth rate of UK citizens, meaning an aging population which requires more imported labour to manage its health needs (especially in social care, since at the moment mainly foreigners are accepting of the poor pay in that sector). Additionally however, you do raise a good point about how this is not actually a problem of supply as much as it is one of pricing and distribution where we need more stock to be occupied and put onto the market. Here increasing renters’ rights and taxing second homes would be policies we might be able to agree on if we were to discover that your argument that building will make us go hungry turns out to be right (which I look forward to hearing more about).

D Glover
D Glover
6 days ago
Reply to  Desmond Wolf

Do you acknowledge any limits on growth at all? Do you think that population density can be increased indefinitely without constraint?
More houses, food production, water, energy generation, sewage, prisons and schools can always be fitted into a fixed-size country?
If not, what’s the cap on maximum population?

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
5 days ago
Reply to  D Glover

Of course there is a limit, but as my point about the Netherlands illustrates, we seem far from reaching it.
But you haven’t answered my questions. You tell me: what is your solution to an aging population driven by (seemingly) irreversible demographic collapse and the collapse of key services that will follow without imported labour? I tried to find common ground with my policy proposals for making our existing population more productive but you seem to think everything can be solved only by lowering immigration. Name me a country that has magically become wealthier just by doing that.

D Glover
D Glover
5 days ago
Reply to  Desmond Wolf

You have only answered one of my questions; you want to build the new houses on greenbelt land.
You haven’t said where the extra food comes from; where the reservoirs go, where the schools, hospitals and prisons go, or the new power stations.
Most importantly, you haven’t said what the cap on the growing population is.

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
5 days ago
Reply to  D Glover

Well I don’t know why I’m even answering some of your questions when you refuse to answer any of mine.
But in the (possibly vain?) hope that this becomes a two-way exchange, I can confirm that you seem partly right that the UK is facing some farming challenges in feeding itself with current land use and current methods, but this article also says we can invest in ‘the very best technology and innovation to drive efficiency, quality, yields and profitability,’ (as has been done in the Netherlands). Though perhaps you have good reasons to think we cannot be as ambitious as the Netherlands and should not be looking to become a stronger, bigger, younger nation?
The suggestion however that there is not enough land seems far-fetched given how at least 17% of the UK is owned by oligarchs and City bankers, often using the land to play at being country gentlemen by creating vast, barren grousemoors for their own entertainment. There is also additional space for new infrastricture which would be freed up through the legal changes I suggested (which you seem to not have read).
As to caps on the population, I’m not a demographer. I can see a case for reducing immigration to increase the bargaining power of labour but am not sure how to sqaure that with the conundrum of demographic collapse and the strain that will put on the welfare state. I was hoping you might be able to weigh in on this issue since you seem so concerned by it, but clearly I was wrong to hope.

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
5 days ago
Reply to  D Glover

Well I don’t know why I’m even answering some of your questions when you refuse to answer any of mine.
But in the (possibly vain?) hope that this becomes a two-way exchange, I can confirm that you seem partly right that the UK is facing some farming challenges in feeding itself with current land use and current methods, but this article also says we can invest in ‘the very best technology and innovation to drive efficiency, quality, yields and profitability,’ (as has been done in the Netherlands). Though perhaps you have good reasons to think we cannot be as ambitious as the Netherlands and should not be looking to become a stronger, bigger, younger nation?
The suggestion however that there is not enough land seems far-fetched given how at least 17% of the UK is owned by oligarchs and City bankers, often using the land to play at being country gentlemen by creating vast, barren grousemoors for their own entertainment. There is also additional space for new infrastricture which would be freed up through the legal changes I suggested (which you seem to not have read).
As to caps on the population, I’m not a demographer. I can see a case for reducing immigration to increase the bargaining power of labour but am not sure how to sqaure that with the conundrum of demographic collapse and the strain that will put on the welfare state. I was hoping you might be able to weigh in on this issue since you seem so concerned by it, but clearly I was wrong to hope.

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
7 days ago

If this is an indicator of Gen Z politics then we really do have a lost generation.

The purity spirals and clearly contradictory political positions are hilariously naive.

If these muppets are already embedded in our institutions then we are really screwed.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
7 days ago

I’ve just read “Dumbing Us Down” by John Taylor Gatto, in it he speaks about how compulsory schooling is designed to slow the maturity of pupils, I’m inclined to believe that this is what we’re seeing. Whole generation reaching their twenties and thirties, still building castles in the sky and trying to live in them.

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
7 days ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

It’s weird. But I think it’s more fundamental than even that. We’ve created a world where people genuinely think they can (and should expect to) have it all. No sacrifices required.

You want to deny biology. You go for it. But in doing so you sacrifice a career in sports.

You want to have a family. Great. But it will hurt your career and it will damage your earning potential.

You want to invite the entire world into the UK. Go make them welcome. But you do so in the knowledge that it will put even more pressure on the housing market. Pushing up rents and house prices.

The thinking everywhere is so bloody naive it’s painful.

Last edited 7 days ago by Dylan Blackhurst
Lindsay S
Lindsay S
7 days ago

JTG also speaks of how compulsory schooling damages focus, today’s young people can only think in sound bites, before moving on to the next! They only get as far as what they want, the how isn’t in their thought process. Many have never even been allowed to consider the how, grown ups always did that bit for them, and now no-one trusts them with the how as they repeatedly prove themselves somewhat moronic.

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
7 days ago

And wage war without any logistical planning, or credible manufacturing capability.

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

In a knowledge economy, why would we design education to do that?

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
7 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

Were we a knowledge economy when our education system was designed?

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

compulsory schooling is designed to slow the maturity of pupils

I can see that it might do that, but why was it designed to do so? Honest question. Is he saying it is hangover from the age of factory fodder?

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
7 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

Yes and when you look at school, other than getting more of it, we haven’t really changed anything; and in getting more of it, we are seeing more problems. The social and emotional learning was a more recent addition and we can all see how well that’s impacted our young people!

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

we haven’t really changed anything

Teachers tend to be very change resistant. Especially where technology is concerned, but also more generally. Their ideas tend to become fixed very early on.

I’m not sure why this is. A few thoughts: teaching is an unadventurous career choice – perhaps their personality makes them intellectually unadventurous; being constantly in a position of authority makes them resistant to criticism and disagreement as sources of growth; don’t work in teams that much, so don’t learn mental flexibility; exist in what is largely a monoculture, while many jobs involve working in mixed teams with different cultures and perspectives. Just my thoughts.

I think it’s more culture than design though.

Last edited 7 days ago by David Morley
Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
7 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

‘Teachers tend to be very change resistant.’ Evidence please.

Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
7 days ago

Given the comments from the Gen Z’ers in the article (who are having such a hard time with life, being able to afford to go drinking in central London.. Students living it up on mommy and daddys coin?) I’d say having their hearts broken is exactly what they need. You aren’t mature until you’ve internalised that reality isn’t what you wish for but what it is and then learn to work within it. But then
“I’m not young enough to know everything.” – Oscar Wilde

Martin M
Martin M
7 days ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

That’s a little unfair. I knew everything when I was in my late teens. Mind you, I seem to have forgotten most of it….

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
7 days ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

Maybe they would benefit from a trip to Wigan Pier circa the 1930s.

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago

Perhaps. But to be fair I drank plenty as a student. Let’s not be too puritanical.

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
6 days ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

Wow – all that coming from the generation above, who had so much paid for them by the state while it was still slightly on the side of working people. The only generation that has a right to criticise gen Zed’s compaints are the generation below which will live under yet worse conditions, things continuing as they are.

Harry Child
Harry Child
7 days ago

Jonathan Swift when he said: ‘It is the folly of too many to mistake the echo of a London coffee-house for the voice of the Kingdom.’ would seem to apply to this sort of article.

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago
Reply to  Harry Child

Let’s face it – a lot of Unherd articles. There’s an awful lot of drawing big conclusions from single events or hearsay.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
7 days ago

A couple of thoughts occur to me based on my experience working with a number of Gen Zers in the UK.
The first is that while its true that on the whole they are more likely to take for granted “social justice” positions, most of them are not particularly extreme and mainly they are concerned with the same things young people have always been concerned with: getting on with life, finding jobs, having a good time etc.
I suspect the fraction of them who are more than superficially involved in these causes is not much bigger than it was back in the 1970s and 80s when students were occupying university libraries in support of Sandanistas. What’s changed of course is the megaphone of social media which makes them seem like they are representative of the whole group.
But of course the fact that even those Gen Zers not particularly interested in politics are more likely to take social justice positions does have implications for electoral politics. most specifically the collapse of the Conservatives’ youth vote. The position is stark and illustrated by a simple fact:
In the 1997 General Election, when they were on the receiving end of a historical landslide for New Labour, the Conservatives gained a higher percentage of 18-30 votes than they did in the 2019 General Election, when they won an 80+ seat majority.
In the past the response to this has been to say, so what? Young people don’t vote much and those that do are concentrated in cities and University constituencies which Labour are going to win anyway. As they grow up they will lose their radicalism.
But I think we may have reached a tipping point where that wisdom no longer applies for the simple reason that young people increasingly don’t have access to the things which historically made them more likely to become more conservative as they get older: specifically secure employment, home ownership, and financial security.
My view is that this is now an existential challenge for the Conservatives.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
7 days ago

If Labour were to announce that it’s going to force their parents to give back the millions in unearned property wealth that they will otherwise inherit in their forties, these kids would become Tories overnight. That’s why Labour have explicitly ruled out doing any such thing.

The narratives may change but human nature remains the same.

Peter B
Peter B
7 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

It’s OK – Labour’s got that covered. They won’t be permitted to inherit their parents’ wealth. Apart from a few exceptions (like the Milibands and Benns).

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
7 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Most of the ‘unearned property wealth’ that you see is due to the property keeping its value, while the value of the currency is reduced, which is due to government money printing. And this is done because government expenditures are greater than income.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
6 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

If Labour were to announce that it’s going to force their parents to give back the millions in unearned property wealth that they will otherwise inherit in their forties, these kids would become Tories overnight.

That’s already happening to many families who are being forced to hand over their parents’ homes to fund long-term care.
I’ve no doubt that Labour in government will disappoint these young ideologues. The question is will they go to the Conservatives. It seems more likely to me that if they move to the right they will be attracted to something more radical.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
7 days ago

Relatively, Reform polls far better with under 25s than the Tories poll with the same demographic. Meanwhile in Europe a sizeable proportion of young people have just voted for right of centre parties, most notably in France.

What we can possibly conclude is that young people, with no longstanding party political loyalty, will vote for clear, distinctive policies. Traditionally there has been a loose coalition between the hard left (distinctive) and left of centre (the beige blob) which has allowed parties like Labour in the UK to collect the youth vote. In contrast, the Tory Party has been doing its best for 25 years to mimic New Labour and drop all policies that might make it truly distinctive, striving hard to be the beige blob.

Starmer’s government will follow the same managerial agenda as Sunak. Those on the left will be sorely disappointed. Most likely Starmer will face more opposition from his own benches than from the opposition. Then there will be the usual failures that beset all governments. Come 2029 the young and idealistic voters looking for change might be tempted rightwards if there is a distinctive right wing party.

Last edited 7 days ago by Nell Clover
Chris Whybrow
Chris Whybrow
7 days ago

I’m in my twenties and I don’t see any political slogans on Instagram. It just shows me pictures of wild boars and Pallas’s cats.

Andrew Buckley
Andrew Buckley
7 days ago
Reply to  Chris Whybrow

No Elephants Chris? You are missing out, work the algorhythm…..

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
7 days ago
Reply to  Chris Whybrow

I just get bricklaying videos and campervan conversions.

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago

Saga cruises coming your way soon!

Paul Ten
Paul Ten
7 days ago

I sense another echo of the 1970s here, a time when, hard as it is to credit, boomers were young. Quite a few, even (perhaps especially) among the privileged middle classes, had extreme and purist political views: Communist, Trotskyist, revolutionary in all forms. Life moves on. I would bet in 30 years time those hard left medical students will be tracking the value of their houses, boosting their pension pots and hiring advisers on inheritance tax planning.

George Venning
George Venning
7 days ago
Reply to  Paul Ten

Paul, you have obviously missed all the polling which shows that, unlike previous generations, Millennials are not growing more conservative as they age.
This may be because, relative to previous generations, they have been much less able to buy houses. And, for those who can’t buy, their rents consume a vastly higher proportion of their incomes. and none of them will have ever had access to a defined benefit pension (remember them?).
More broadly, it’s important to recognise just how unusual the postwar period was – wealth and productivity grew at the fastest rate in history, even as inequality fell. Almost everything that we now take for granted as the building blocks of our modern way of life grew up in the yars between 1945 and 1980. Antibiotics, vaccines and the healthcare systems to provide them, the green revolution in agriculture, cheap meat and poutry, the wide availability of fridges, washing machines, telephones, cars, mass tourism, universal acess to higher education, social security.
All of it arose (or became widespread) in a 35 year period which coincided with the formative years of the boomers, life got a lot better, fast.
Then the postwar consensus ran into the sand and we had thirty years of marketisation and neo-liberalism. Things got better but more slowly and less transformatively. We can add the internet to the list above but not much else.
But, since the financial crisis, it has been increasingly obvious that the political offer to young peope is, in important ways, worse than what their parents were offered. Is it surprising that (small c) conservatism doesn’t appeal?

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
7 days ago
Reply to  George Venning

‘we had thirty years of marketisation and neo-liberalism. Things got better but more slowly and less transformatively.’ – and off the back of unsustainable state sell-offs and the erosion of industry.
As Macmillan said of Thatcher, ‘It is very common with inidividuals or states when they run into financial difficulties, to find that they have to sell some of their assets – first the Georgian silver goes, then all that nice furniture.’ Thatcherism was always short-term opportunism combined with financial fecklessness – splurging North Sea oil on fruitless tax cuts that have cemented our position as a second-rate power.

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago
Reply to  Desmond Wolf

And, of course, selling off council houses etc on the basis that homeowners and shareholders would be more likely to vote Tory. Now its all coming home to roost.

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
7 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

After the Winter of Discontent, there weren’t many alternatives.

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
6 days ago

Disagree. Thatcher could have created a soverign wealth fund with the North Sea oil (as they did in Norway). She could have kept Heseltine’s build clause in the original Right to Buy policy (i.e. for every council house sold another is built). But she was too concerned with short-term gains.

RA Znayder
RA Znayder
6 days ago
Reply to  Paul Ten

No it’s pretty different. The 70s were the last part of a very progressive and stable economic period. Also these boomers had access to cheap high quality universal education which sort off made them aware of how things actually worked. Although one might say generation 68 didn’t stick to their ideals, contemporary politics is really nothing more than a hype train of short-lived hypes. Finally the economic outlook of the young is pretty bad. In fact, stats show that in many Western countries gen z are actually going to the far right as they radicalize.

Martin M
Martin M
7 days ago

The fact is that elections (in normal times at least), are won from the Centre. Starmer has positioned himself to take that into account. If the people (as a whole) wanted a far-Left government, Corbyn would have been elected PM. They didn’t, and he wasn’t. If Starmer wants a Left-wing view on something now, he still has “Red” Ed Miliband.

Point of Information
Point of Information
7 days ago

“to vote independent out of spite is to piss in the wind”

Voting for a smaller party than Labour or the Tories is not the same as voting for an independent candidate, who is affiliated to no party.

Advising young people to only vote for one of the two largest parties is to advocate a permanent two party system – and the basis for this argument is that we live in an, almost, two party system. Circular and counter-productive.

Vote for the party you most agree with – for Polly’s acquaintance that would surely be Green as they agree with every one of policies mentioned here. (Disclosure: undecided voter, not a card carrying member of any party).

George Venning
George Venning
7 days ago

And to piss on those who vote for parties with no immediate hope of victory is to abandon democracy as a vehicle for change.

Nick Wade
Nick Wade
7 days ago

“For me, the dropping of the £28 billion-a-year green pledge was among the greatest blows.”

How we laughed. Just one of the many indicators jumping out of this article that we are reading something from someone without a clue about pretty much anything.

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
7 days ago

Adolescents who might benefit from CBT to counter their black and white thinking. Given the complexities.of life let’s hope they learn some cognitive flexibility. .Otherwise they will break.and, of course, many of them sadly are. I teach this generation in.lecture theatres – some are truly thrilling in their ability to find expression, but too many seem lost on the inside.

Matt M
Matt M
7 days ago

Politics for young, single people is just a mating ritual. They take radical poses to look attractive to the in-crowd. They will all vote for the Reformed Conservatives in 20 years time when they have kids and a mortgage.

Utter
Utter
7 days ago
Reply to  Matt M

Indeed – and often, the further left they were, the further right they flip to. I suppose that what doesn’t change is a know-it-all judgey authoritarianism – they just swap out the red version for the blue one.

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago
Reply to  Utter

You may have just summed up a large section of UnHerd’s readership 🙂

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
7 days ago
Reply to  Matt M

That’s certainly what it was for Matt Hancock.
Meeting partners through politics is nothing new though. My grandparents met at a Young Conservatives club in the 1960s (to their own shame now..)

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago
Reply to  Matt M

when they have kids and a mortgage

What? Both?

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
7 days ago

Try as I might, I cannot cry that a demographic whose signature issues are to impoverish the world through its preferred energy policies, and to actively support those who want to kill 7 million Jews, is disappointed.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 days ago

My only advice to Poppy is to take off her rose tinted glasses. Youthful idealism is all well and good but it comes up hard against the cold wall or reality.
The problem is that Gen z’ers haven’t really experienced a Labour government so they are not aware of how bad a shape previous ones have left the country in. And remember it was one Tony Blair who opened the doors to mass migration, that has put pressure on housing causing prices to rise, that has severely impacted young people wanting to get on the housing ladder.
I suggest she take a look at the Social Democratic Party as an alternative to Labour. Culturally to the right of centre, economically a tad to the left of centre. And the Young Social Democrats are doing a very good job.

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
7 days ago

I am only a temporary member of Unherd and if this is the sort of tripe that is served up, I won’t be signing up. I have better things to do with my life than read the bleatings of yet another ignorant 20-something whinger.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
7 days ago
Reply to  Jos Haynes

I have an alternative take on her articles. It’s more than useful to read what appears to be a representative expression of the views of her peers. Being informed about such views is always an advantage; indeed, to being uninformed about anything. I expect this is why Unherd commissions her to write and also in order to attract a more thoughtful, younger bunch of subscribers – thoughtful in the sense of not just taking their news and opinions from Instagram/Tiktok or wherever.
You have the option of not reading her articles. There’s about 21-22 major pieces published each week plus many more shorter viewpoints; and then there’s comments. Reading the responses to articles you dislike may well be more informative than you seem to imagine might be the case.

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Yes – and I thought this piece was better than her previous ones. Plus some commenters seem to be shooting the messenger.

Also – try talking about anything of any seriousness or depth with the average middle aged, middle class person. It’s different, and the drinks are even more expensive, but the conversation is scarcely better.

J Bryant
J Bryant
7 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Great comment. I don’t really understand the vitriol against this author. A younger perspective is important, especially in an older-leaning outlet such as Unherd.
It’s probably also worth bearing in mind she’s a young journalist trying to establish her brand. She may or may not believe everything she writes, and she’s no doubt deliberately provocative to some extent. Ya gotta stand out in the crowd.

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Yes – it does make Unherd commenters look like a bunch of mean old people doesn’t it. I thought this piece was better than her previous ones I’ve read. I actually like the boozy, druggy local colour. And she’s not uncritical of her peers, and she doesn’t just rant like some older Unherd contributors.

The perspective on gender issues was worth reading. I probably don’t agree with it, but in generational terms it is very much a repeat of the gay issues of yesteryear.

Samuel Gee
Samuel Gee
7 days ago

Can’t be all that bad for these folks. All out on the lash at London prices and talking politics. Beer and antisemitism being a theme they probably don’t realise has a well known track record.

George Venning
George Venning
7 days ago
Reply to  Samuel Gee

And that is the difference between anecdote and data.
“I saw a t**t wearing a keffiyeh and drinking a £7 pint” does not amount to research.
Back in the real world, London’s “night time economy” (i.e. going out on the lash) is on its knees – largely because the young people who used to sustain it don’t have the disposible income to do so.
https://www.standard.co.uk/going-out/bars/london-nightlife-economy-sadiq-khan-b1145432.html

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
6 days ago
Reply to  George Venning

Still yet to lose a single argument on here..

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
7 days ago

There can be only one response to this article… “They’re all idiots, the lot of them.”

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
7 days ago

Is Poppy an UnHerd writer’s nepo baby? That seems to be the only explanation for why she keeps turning up here.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
7 days ago

She’ll vote Labour, but only so that “the real Left will come in time”.
I’m not sure how the article flowed after that but if the above quote is indicative of the mentality of someone bright enough to be a med student, god help the UK. “The real Left.” The group whose work is documented in multiple history and non-fiction books.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
7 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Being “bright” and being politically astute are two entirely separate things.

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
7 days ago

Ironically the last part of the article urging corbinistas to vote labour could equally apply to urging thatcherites to vote conservative
Fragmentation is a problem in a first past the post system, but how else are people to express their views?

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
7 days ago

‘What are young voters’ concerns? Many cannot forgive Starmer for refusing to take a hard line on Israel, or neglecting to adopt radical positions on gender. For me, the dropping of the £28 billion-a-year green pledge was among the greatest blows. There is no doubt that these concerns are both legitimate and personal.’ (Italics mine)
It was at that moment that I dropped my toast.
These ‘concerns’ are both mad and actively malign.

John Riordan
John Riordan
7 days ago

“The Fabian economist G.D.H. Cole advocated for a “broad human movement on behalf of the bottom dog”; such broadness seems totally incompatible with the brittle, sneering inflexibility of modern youth movements.”

How much longer will it be before we recognise that modern youth political movements are very often themselves Fascist?

Citizen Diversity
Citizen Diversity
7 days ago

Perhaps Starmer’s proposal of lowering the voting age to include the Alphas might not be good for any party relying on the yearning for conservatism. When the Alphas draw their pensions, will they be conservative? But why interrupt a centrist while he’s making a mistake.
I know a young Gen Zer who views her parents through this binary lens – me woke, you N@zi. This results in shouting matches, unleavened by any knowledge, political or historic.
These are followed by the showing of the middle finger to mater and pater, and ending in sullen silences, the strain of which breaks into tearful hugs of forgiveness as both sides realise that they mean more to each other than all these politicians; even if Starmer does look too Tory.
As with episodes of this election campaign, all this provides comedy that is a great corrective to taking oneself too seriously. A roar of laughter is effective medicine. Thanks for providing a spoonful, Poppy.

william langdale
william langdale
7 days ago

 “Moral purists can’t cope with Starmer’s realpolitik”.Actually they can’t cope with anything.This is as old as the hills (and I sold Marxist newspapers on the street as a teenager so I know the feeling).100 years ago Nye Bevan used to call the ILP “political eunuchs”which they were,apart from the member he married of course and the comfort of purity always clings around the left like a smothering blanket.The real problem is the poison of identity politics which has been relentlessly fed to this generation,Maoist drivel and until they shake that off they haven’t a chance of changing anything or bringing anyone along with them

Pat Rowles
Pat Rowles
7 days ago

Labour’s refusal to condemn the Cass Report as a foaming piece of transphobic hatred

the intricacies of modern identity politics

Starmer…is instead conquering the statesmanlike centre ground

So this is how it ends, is it? Oh well, we had a good run, I suppose!

William Amos
William Amos
7 days ago

“The Fabian economist G.D.H. Cole advocated for a “broad human movement on behalf of the bottom dog”
G.D.H Cole was also a classic sophomore – a clever fool – who argued that it would be better for Hitler or Stalin to rule all of Europe than see it made up of small sovereign independent states.
As he put it in 1941
“it would be better to let Hitler conquer all Europe short of the Soviet Union, and thereafter exploit it ruthlessly in the Nazi interest, than to go back to the pre-war order of independent Nation States…I would much sooner see the Soviet Union, even with its policy unchanged, dominant over all Europe, including Great Britain, than see an attempt to restore the pre-war States to their futile and uncreative independence”

Lancastrian Oik
Lancastrian Oik
7 days ago

Is this a parody? If so, it’s a good ‘un.

Mark epperson
Mark epperson
7 days ago

I feel your pain. I am 76 and if I was a Gen Z, I would be at the barricades because the Boomers and Xers have screwed both the millennials and Z’er by being greedy, controlling bastards. I have a xer son, two millennial daughters, and a new grandson and I fear for their futures. As I do yours. You have to vote and unfortunately in almost every country, the choices suck because of entrenched parties and their funders. However, if you keep voting out the incumbents, things will change and it may take 8 to 10 years to get rid of the inept and greedy bunch but it will be worth it. The only other solution in insurrection that may lead to revolution. Unless you and your generation act, that could happen or you will end up in 1984 with the Ministry of Truth with all of your heads shaved wearing unisex outfits. Actually, I have great faith in Gen Z, and the majority of millennials. Do something or just take it, but don’t continually gripe. Good luck!

Last edited 7 days ago by Mark epperson
Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
6 days ago
Reply to  Mark epperson

Thanks for this, but I fear (based on the authoritarian crackdowns that tend to follow street protest, both in the UK and abroad) that open street protest is futile. Better to organise in the workplace and try and win control back from our bosses, landlords and rip off privatised key services house by house, business by business, village by village (as the Welsh town of Blaenau Ffestiniog did by creating a community power generator).The class war ahead is a fist fight, not a street fight. But all the best to those attempting the latter.

Last edited 6 days ago by Desmond Wolf
RA Znayder
RA Znayder
6 days ago

Youth culture is just overhyped by marketing and PR tactics and online culture. Late capitalism wants a ‘consumer’ with an unstable ego and a short attention span, and this is what they got increasingly with each subsequent generation. Millenials and gen Z take the cake.

We see the results of this in ‘politics’. Every time it seems like somethig big is going on. Take, for example, the BLM protests. But the hype is always short-lived, there is zero impact and everything is soon forgotten. Up to the next hype. Elites, love this because it keeps everyone distracted from the only real power structure: economics.

It is strange that the author doesn’t mention economy and inequality at all. In many places in the West stats show the young are very worried about things like the housing crisis and unstable work. Soon enough Zoomers will discover that this is the actual issue for them and all the other things were luxury believes. If the current trajectory does not change many of the young will be driven into poverty and homelessness. That’s when we might see actual radicalization. And we’ll have to see if that goes to the far left or right, or a combination of the two.

Utter
Utter
7 days ago

Thankfully – you heard it here first – young people tend to grow up.

Last edited 6 days ago by Utter
Meaty Beaty
Meaty Beaty
7 days ago

Reading this just says to me the author is heavily into chips – not the physical kind.

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago

our age group’s electoral home, is shot through with guilt about relinquishing ideological purity

There must also surely be some who feel that Starmer will simply not be sufficiently radical to make a difference.

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago

Sharper than Poppy’s previous pieces, though still a little long. We do need a more youthful view on here – it is a bit old fogeyish.

James Kirk
James Kirk
7 days ago

56% Labour? Out of how many? Someone below reckons 30% of Gen Z will bother. 70% boomers. Quick sums assuming 30 million out of 47 m vote.
4.4 million GZ , 1.4m will bother x 56% 780,000 Labour votes.
12.5m pensioners, most who have little time for Gaza, rainbow flags, pride marches and gender issues, excessive immigration or net zero.
Of those assuming Labour votes being pro rata i.e 5 million less 30%. So 3.5m Tories 2.5m etc. Hmmm, I think Poppy’s hoping her millennial parents think the same. And so is Starmer. And that’s ignoring Tories, Farage, Davey, the Greens out of the 44% remainder. Do the 30% again. As someone else says, from kids well off enough who discuss politics in pubs when sex and football beckon.

Last edited 7 days ago by James Kirk
Martin Smith
Martin Smith
7 days ago

If Labour gets anything like the majority predicted by the polls there’ll be plenty of opportunity for a ‘left opposition’ in Parliament to give GenZ the ideological purity and Jew hatred they seem to crave. With no external opposition and plenty of Corbynistas still in the party I’d say it’s inevitable like water running down hill, and all the faster once the dam is breached.

Alison R Tyler
Alison R Tyler
7 days ago

We have to share our society, our country and our planet with every kind of person, so someone somewhere needs to begin to reconsider the common good as an important reality for survival. Failure to get a grip on this will sadly be catastrophic for all of us, even the ideologically pure.

Mark epperson
Mark epperson
7 days ago

I feel your pain. I am 76 and if I was a Gen Z, I would be at the barricades because the Boomers and Xers have screwed both the millennials and Z’er by being greedy, controlling bastards. I have a xer son, two millennial daughters, and a new grandson and I fear for their futures. As I do yours. You have to vote and unfortunately in almost every country, the choices suck because of entrenched parties and their funders. However, if you keep voting out the incumbents, things will change and it may take 8 to 10 years to get rid of the inept and greedy incumbents, but It will be worth it. The only other solution in insurrection that may lead to revolution. Unless you and your generation act, that could happen or you will end up in 1984 with the Ministry of Truth with all of your heads shaved wearing unisex outfits. Actually, I have great faith in Gen Z, and the majority of millennials. Do something or just take it, but don’t continually gripe. Good luck!

El Uro
El Uro
7 days ago

The greatest problem for Gen Zs surveying their electoral options on 4 July will be that our old-school two-party system cannot keep up with the 1,000 online causes that buffet them each day.
.
Why does she think system has to treat Gen Z 1000 online causes?
Buy diapers and shut up!

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
7 days ago

Gen Z is by far the most disappointing generation so far. To consider that Millennials achieved quite significantly in tech while their sporting achievements have been considerable too (one thinks of tennis).
They’ve been little lacking in cultural achievement perhaps but nothing compared to the nightmare of digital narcissism that is today’s 18-30 year olds.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 days ago

Well written essay, thanks

kate Dunlop
kate Dunlop
2 days ago

Poppy is an “editor and writer” who scribbles like a self-obsessed adolescent needing adult supervision and someone to clean up her waffle.

Jae
Jae
2 days ago

I have no idea what age this author is, but her thinking gives credence to the fact that our brains don’t fully develop until past 25. Given her views you’re all doomed if she’s your future.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
2 days ago

It’s weird, reading this I sometimes glimpsed my twenties, and thought that actually the author was trying to say least be partly objective and balanced. But then I see:

“…trust(s) the electorate to be mature enough to distinguish between opposing Netanyahu and antisemitism.”

And I think, err no, from what I can see most young opposition to Israel/support for Hamas is entirely antisemitic – you can tell because every other opposition leader has publicly stated they would enact the same policy towards Palestine and pursue the same war objectives. Don’t hide behind clever sounding pretend political opposition.

And then I see:

“Labour’s refusal to condemn the Cass Report as a foaming piece of transphobic hatred…*

And I think, what’s transphobic about it? Do you think mutilating children is ethically ok then? What about legitimate concerns for female safety in a variety of situations? Do the airport think the entire UK legal system is transphobic because it blocked Sturgeons plans?

In other areas it’s clear the author is more realistic and balanced than many young voters (I liked the disparaging line ‘everything is either Tory or good’ ) but if this is amongst the best of a generation then I really fear for the future

0 0
0 0
2 days ago

It’s really moral purism or moral anything. It’s just another kind of consumerism, no better than identity politics. Electorate vulnerability to flattery is nothing new if course. And the it’s not only the young whose idea of choice has been insidiously permeated by advertising and consuming habits. Those selling project onto you while indulging your belief that your identity is enhanced by the product. ( This is not mere theorising, I’ve taught some of the best in the business.)

What’re put forward as principles, moral or otherwise, have been emptied out in the process to little more than identity furnishings. So sad to see young idealists who deeply believe their principles are pure while those whose tastes are indulged by Farage, etc. are mired in turpitude have no idea how equivalent the two positionings are. They’re rarely able to rise to the challenge of explaining where the difference resides, try it out sometime.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 day ago

Not sure is Poppy Sowerby is as young as her photo suggests (it has that online dating app look guaranteed to disappoint face to face) but if she really is that young I shudder to think how cynical she will be at my ancient age..
For her it seems morals, ideology and being on the right side of history is for Kindergarten kids and realpolitik is the ideal recipe for today’s pragmatist.. Of course, the wanton slaughter of innocent women and children (I assume she doesn’t have any?) in vicious, relentless revenge attacks the equivalent of 4 Hiroshima bombs already is “complex” in that the UK has to suck up to US genocide, which also applied of course to Iraq (¾ million dead) and Vietnam (2½ million dead) among others, is far more important than ceasing to aid and abet the ongoing Israeli ethnic cleansing, starvation and destruction of hospitals, schools, churches.
Supplying the murder weapons for this mayhem is not really important compared to receiving Biden’s crumbs and the promise of American support when Russian bombs fall on UK targets after UK weapons land in mother Russia.. good luck with that by the way after Trump wins the November election!
Appalled at this young lady’s views is too mild a term.. perhaps she will eventually become the UK’s Golda Meir?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
16 hours ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

It’s not wanton slaughter though is it? Who warns the Palestinians leave the area well in advance (clue: not Hamas). Who hides any warning leaflets and doesn’t tell citizens of the Isreali warnings? (Clue: not the IDF). Who deliberately sets up shop in hospitals, schools and populous areas so that fighting kills the maximum number of citizens for PR for people like you? (Defo not the IDF)

You mention Hiroshima, if Isreal really wanted to cause genocide it could just use the nukes everyone knows they have. They don’t because their objective is simply to eradicate Hamas and not ordinary Palestinians, despite what Hamas’s useful idiots might say

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
12 hours ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

They give warnings before attacking ‘indiscriminately,’ as Biden admitted? How sweet! I agree that they do make some effort to create a veneer of responsibility when they attack so far the war seems to have done nothing but grow Hamas and undermine Israeli and western moral credibility abroad, emboldening our enemies, bringing war closer and closer to our door each day. As LM above suggests, name a war against a popular insurgent movement that has ended up working out for the foreign invader.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 hours ago
Reply to  Desmond Wolf

So Isreal should just sit back and accept the endless rockets Hamas lob over the border, or await their building back to full strength for another crack at border town (all the while spending your international aid ££££s on new tunnels, rockets and IEDs and not on improving the lot of their citizens’ lives)?

Maybe this time Hamas could try and beat the rape, torture murder and hostage record from October?

Everyone forgets who started this, and they turn up to central London on Saturdays to a march organised by nutters in balaclavas. Yes, Palestinian children and families dying is tragic, but it is squarely Hamas’s fault, anything other than supporting the removal of Hamas is prolonging Palestinian suffering

Aidan Anabetting
Aidan Anabetting
7 days ago

Excellent article – showing a degree of mature self-scrutiny that perhaps older ‘Britannia Unchained’ purists, clinging doggedly to a failed free-market utopianism, might learn from – though I fear self-knowledge might be a little too uncomfortable for those who are over-invested in the asset bubble.