In September 2016 research from YouGov showed the typical Labour supporter to be a depressed vegetarian. In the summer of 2017, the image of the core of Jeremy Corbyn’s support has changed to that of an angry student.
Naïve youngsters believe the in many ways privileged, protected existence they enjoy are the natural order of things, not the product of the only system ever devised by man capable of creating widespread prosperity: capitalism. As we and many others have pointed out, it is now up to politicians on the right to once again win the argument in favour of free markets and capitalism, a task the miserable Theresa May never even attempted.
Young people may be naïve, but they are not stupid. Most would probably prefer being born into their own generation rather than their parents or grandparents, and rightly so. They can expect to live longer, healthier lives. They enjoy social freedoms and benefit from technology that previous generations could never even imagine. They may complain about access to education, but more attend university now than ever before.
Still, the young feel angry, left behind, that the system isn’t working for them. In their search for answers they have fallen for the easy ones: Corbyn’s promises of taxing someone else to pay for goodies for everyone else. It is a sad testament to the gullibility of the young that they in large numbers have fallen for this naïve programme.
Yet, despite their privileged existences the young do have one legitimate grievance: if things continue as they are, most will not own their own home, at least until their parents die. Moving back home to your parents after finishing university is not what most have planned. Living in cramped conditions on the outskirts of London does not match what their parents could expect. The dream of property ownership seems likely to go unfulfilled for most. To this problem, the young have again opted for the easy answer: promises of more social housing and a tirade against the ‘multi-millionaires’ who supposedly are behind the rise in house prices.
The real culprit of the multi-decade property boom remains un-accused: the Bank of England, whose easy monetary policy has fuelled the explosion in property prices, making saving up for a deposit a lifelong task. The Bank, through pumping up asset prices, is also directly responsible for the widening wealth gap, another hot political topic. To an electorate who have no idea about the difference between the Bank of Scotland and the Bank of England, this is one of the difficult answers to understand. It is an answer that often seems lost on even seasoned politicians and economists. It is outrageous, but not surprising, that monetary policy didn’t feature in the election campaign. But the independence of central banks does not absolve them of responsibility.
Like Donald Trump in the US, Corbyn has tapped into a sense of being left behind, of a system that is not working. To Trump, the enemy was China and free trade, to Corbyn the rich and austerity. Both were wrong. But whereas Trump touched upon the insidious role of the Federal Reserve, Corbyn stuck to his easy answers. And the young lapped it up.