8 May 2018

Intergenerational fairness: the mounting anger amongst younger voters

At the 42nd floor of the Leadenhall Building in the City for the launch of the Resolution Foundation’s Intergenerational Commission report.

Canary Wharf peaks out of a heat/pollution haze in the distance and a mighty and growing inequality between the generations rears its head in the room via more then 70 graphs.

CBI boss Carolyn Fairbairn called it a new phenomenon and a “serious, serious problem” in (near) perfect harmony with Frances O’Grady, the TUC boss, who said it highlighted “unacceptable levels of inequality”.

Actually they differed in their focus on the many pages of policy recommendations. But that is as nothing to the challenge even fans of the report foresee getting Tory MPs and ministers to embrace an agenda that involves seizing some of the accumulated wealth sitting in the hands of the older generation.

Some of that taxed wealth would be deployed to help care and health services for the elderly and thereby ease the tax burden on the younger generation, whose earnings are not performing as well as the predecessor generations.

David Willetts was asked how he could be so sure that the older generation would sign up for this redistribution and light-heartedly recalled the US bumper sticker: “Be kind to your kids – they choose your nursing home.” But some of the Commission’s qualitative work detected a worry amongst older voters that the younger generation might not carry on contributing to the older generation’s well-being if they are struggling themselves.

On top of the core evidence pointing to lower earnings and higher outgoings for younger workers, the report detects that younger workers are now commuting further than their predecessor generations and spending less (a counter to the suggestion they are splashing money on iPhones and fancy foodstuffs). One graph points to a greater tendency for younger people to live ever more apart (more urban settings – presumably on other edges of urban areas if commuting further) from older generations (more semi-rural and suburban). Filming in Watford we found anecdotal evidence to support those suggestions.

The report doesn’t spell out the threat of what might go wrong if the parallel worlds and forgotten inter-dependence themes continue but you sense that they worry a mounting anger amongst younger voters and disenchantment with the political system is not a political desirable even if you can’t be sure how far and how quickly it travels.

Chatting to Tory MPs about the plans and you hear lines like, “Oh yes, let’s punch our main constituency in the bollocks – brilliant.” No. 10, a little more diplomatically, said there were “no plans” to adopt the policies.

Follow @GaryGibbonBlog on Twitter

Tweets by @garygibbonblog