Faced by spending cuts, public sector strikes and student riots, commentators have begun to wring their hands about the growing polarisation of politics. All this division, they say, is terribly unhealthy, rather stressful and all a bit unseemly. Can’t we just go back to the good old days when everyone either agreed with Tony Blair or couldn’t pin down what he stood for sufficiently precisely to corner him into an argument?
Hand-wringing is certainly in order, but the mainstream commentariat are lying awake at night fretting about the wrong issue. What we are seeing is not really a gaping divide between the political sides. What is emerging is a painful and deep political division between the generations.
Whatever side of politics you may find yourself on, resentment of the middle-aged and elderly is blooming amongst the young.
This is most obvious on the Left. Students promised free university education have stormed Millbank, attacked Nick Clegg’s office and – perhaps most heinously – set fire to the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree in protest at their betrayal by their elders. The very politicians who are telling them there is no such thing as a free lunch gorged themselves on a free academia buffet at Oxbridge – but now they are changing the rules and breaking their word.
The same anger is burning on the Right, though you’ll find no desecrated war memorials or singed Norwegian fir trees as a result. It was the older generation who went along with overspending and deficit finance, failing to undermine the fallacy of “an end to boom and bust”. But it is the young who will have to work our whole lives to pay off the vast national debt.
The young may well be becoming more divided – but you can be sure that, whatever our politics, we are united in agreeing it was the faults of our elders who brought us into this mess.
Mark Wallace is editor of www.crashbangwallace.com