A lost generation: demography underpins the resurgence of socialism

Calvin Robinson is head of computer science at St Mary’s and St John’s Church of England School in Hendon, north west London, and this year he featured in the Department of Education’s ‘I choose to teach’ recruitment campaign. But Mr. Robinson is a rare specimen, a teacher who identifies politically as ‘right wing’. In June 2016, he wrote a column on the Conservatives for Liberty website, where he revealed the left-wing bias amongst UK teachers and how ‘young people are being indoctrinated to a left-wing mentality from a very young age’. It’s not only in the schools: a survey by the Adam Smith Institute found that 80% of British university lecturers are ‘left wing’, compared to 12% who lean right.

No surprise then, that 66% of 18-19 year olds and 62% of 20-24 year olds voted for Jeremy Corbyn’s hard-left Labour in the June ’17 election. Conversely, the average Conservative party member is now a ripe 72 years old, up from 66 just two years ago.

The generational pattern is obvious. Then question is: will the young drift to the right with age, in line with the old adage ‘if a man is not a socialist by the time he is 20, he has no heart – if he is not a conservative by the time he is 40, he has no brain’? If not, the battle for Britain’s future seems lost to a socialist Armageddon.

Recent history of Western democracies tends to suggest that voters do indeed trend to the right with age, as youthful idealism and naivety gives way to adult responsibilities, experiences, work and taxes. However, relying on maturity to cure perceptible minds of the folly of socialism may not work with the current generation. The danger is that the so-called Millennials are conditioned from an early age to buy into a collectivist vision.

The authors Neil Howe and William Strauss are credited with coining the term Millennials to refer to the generation born in the timespan from the early ‘80s to the end of the century. This generation is distinct in attitudes to risk and personal responsibility from their parental Generation X, who were conditioned by their upbringing to a more individualist outlook. Whereas the GenX children in the ‘70s and ’80 enjoyed a large degree of freedom and responsibility from an early age, being left to play and explore with patchy parental oversight, the generations growing up in the ‘90s and ‘00s has experienced a much different, hands-on, protected upbringing. The generation of attachment parenting, bike helmets, back-seat seat belts, baby-onboard signs and university safe spaces are used to being chaperoned to and from school, where they learn about inclusiveness and to be sensitive to others’ feelings. ‘This is a generation that is used to being fuzzed over, protected, very risk averse, comfortable with following rules’, in the words of Neil Howe. Millennials are coming of age in a blame culture where the culprit for whatever misfortune one may suffer is usually to be found amongst a narrow group of aggressors: the rich, the male or the white.

Millennials are conditioned to be receptive to collectivist thought, to abdicate personal responsibility and to pool risk in the hands of government. Too young to remember the horrors of communism, they form willing repositories for left-wing ideas which their elders regard as discredited. Paradoxically, growing up in societies reaping the rewards of the triumph of capitalism, they are in a sense a generation brought up to be socialists.

When Theresa May signed off on an ill-advised manifesto that comprised a commitment to the reintroduction of fox hunting, she included no bait for young voters. Bribed by the promise of the abolition of tuition fees, the young turned out in numbers to vote for Labour, prompting much Tory soul searching. However, the dismal Tory showing amongst the young may not be reversible, but a sticky, generational trait. And the left-wing bias amongst Millennials is not just a UK phenomenon. In the US, Bernie Sanders won more young votes in the 2016 primaries than Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump combined. In a recent YouGov poll of American voters, respondents younger than 30 were the only group that shockingly rated socialism more favourably than capitalism (43 percent vs. 32 percent). In June 2017 the Tory Party faced more than a populist opponent with solid campaigning skills, they faced a worldwide trend: a changing demographic landscape that favoured their left-wing opponent.

As Millennials come of age, they form a growing voting constituency who are conditioned from infancy to be collectivists and are brought up in an education system that indoctrinates their willing minds. With a sketchy concept of personal responsibility, they readily blame others for their problems and buy into the class war rhetoric on offer from the left. We on the political right face an uphill battle to turn the red tide – and demography is working against us.

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