Talking about my generation

Our political system is creaking, but the parties are blaming the voters rather than looking in the mirror. Defensive, patronising and distant, our leaders seem to think that promising easy answers can fix things, but in reality all they are doing is setting themselves up to fail. Despite this, a new generation, perhaps naively, is more optimistic about our future than any other. More creative and more honest - the best hope for our country lies in this generation. But the current crop of politicians should step aside and make way, before it is too late.

Our current political class promises to 'listen' but people want action, not more words
Photo: PA Archive

Politicians just want voters to be more like them

Look at you, there. Ha! You, you who says you want change and then walks down to the polling booth with a smile on your face as you voted for Nigel Farage. You, who said you didn’t like posh boys in suits and then you go and elect one in Clacton even after he’s changed political party. Why are you being really hypocritical and doing really silly things like voting for an ex-city banker whilst also saying you think they should be taxed more? Do you not even know what UKIP stand for? Do you want me to tell you? What’s wrong with you? Why are you so fickle? Oh you, you, piece of electorate.

Our politics is in trouble. And parties have identified who they think is to blame: voters.

And, let's be honest, it's not just our national leaders. God forbid someone finally mentions some of the dire behaviour of political activists who seek to patronise each other just as much as they do the electorate. They seem to think they’re above people – believing that knocking on the door of a random stranger gives you some sort of right to tell them that they’re being stupid by even considering Nigel Farage and wrap the whole thing up by saying you’re ‘listening’ and that they’re just like you deep down really… oh and you do care about immigration. Because normal people clearly spend their weekends speaking to people who are… trying to enjoy their weekend.

I look back now on some of the things I used to say on the ‘#labourdoorstep’ and I now cringe at the thought of being the person on the other side of the doorway. Not that that would happen in Norfolk or in Tower Hamlets. I get the emails and I read the tweets. And I remember being the person stood there as someone says something perfectly legitimate about an issue in their local community and not having a clue what to say because I don’t live there and you’re stood there having no idea who the local councillors are let alone the road round the corner she’s describing to me as if I know the local area. She knows I know that she knows that I know that I don’t know what she means. I just nod because it seems inauthentic and wrong to say “Sorry, I don’t actually live here, I’ve just been bussed in to tell you how to vote tomorrow.” And that’s why I’m sorry, but I just can’t do it anymore. Apparently that probably makes it my fault that we nearly lost in Heywood and Middleton.

But I do remember listening a lot ‘on the doorstep’. Not that the candidates nor the organisers cared about what was actually heard.

When people spoke about the NHS, I’m really sorry to break it to you, they were not glowing with smiles and brimming faces saying how ‘proud’ they were of our best institution. No. Long waiting times to see a local GP even in 2009 – and a rude doctor who didn’t seem to care once they got there. Their friend who had gone in and caught a superbug. The fact they had to explain the same thing to 4 different people and each time got told something different. Of course we are all grateful to have the NHS to rely on – and yes, it has genuinely saved my life in the past but please don’t sit there and use that as a political football to kick around and tell me that’s why I should vote Labour and why the Tories are evil. You can do better than that.

Times are changing, but our politics is not

My generation has grown up with the world and information closer to our fingertips than ever before.

I can walk into a bank on the other side of the world and access my bank statements. Yet walk into an NHS hospital miles away and no ones ever heard of your medical records. I’m not trusted with a copy of my own medical record. I’m not treated as an adult or as a partner of my own health because a doctor is there to ‘fix’ me and therefore I should put up, or shut up.

Like when you’ve been told by a consultant that you might have a growth in your ear or your neck that’s caused you to lose your hearing in one side and you’re told it’ll be 10 weeks for a scan and when you get there they scan the wrong part of your head and you only find out 4 weeks later after he tells you there’s nothing to worry about because your ‘nose is fine’. Or when you’ve got chronic sleeping problems and are struggling just to get through the day and they just offer you sleeping tablets and anti-depressants to get rid of you. And when you suggest there’s an iPhone app that will track your habits whilst you sleep and whether they could look at those or do a quick phone call to discuss the results with a consultant you’re told you’d need to go to a sleep clinic for “proper tests”. Sexual health services taking 3 hours for the tests alone and a week for the results when charities can do it in 15 minutes or plans to give you piece of mind even in Tesco after a shop but that’s apparently ‘privatisation’ and ‘relying on charities’ rather than the state which ‘should’ provide it for you.

Don’t tell me we don’t deserve better from our NHS than that. If only our health system worked with people to make them better.

Because we are a generation that fixes problems in front of us.

We code our way round it, we build networks of people to keep in touch with and we start our own businesses to build a better future because paid jobs don’t give us the flexibility we want and working for someone else doesn’t give us the independence we crave. Yet our politicians tell us to be happy with an apprenticeship for £2 an hour. You only have to look around you and see young people craving something different from being told to do an unpaid internship to get into banking and finance to have a good life.

Thousands of kids in college studying subjects they’re not really interested in and only there because they’ve been told they should do something – and never encouraged to do anything that they could if they wanted. If only education truly empowered them – what we could do if we worked with young kids to support them in building their own jobs for the future rather than promising them one we’re not even sure we can find them.

Yet apparently making it easier for people to start their own companies and talking about the power of the internet to change lives and our public services is the ‘preserve of the rich’. Despite the fact that without the internet I wouldn’t even be who I am today, let alone where I am today. But that makes me some sort of ‘traitor’ because I don’t think you can write off the poverty and isolation as well as the decimation of our public services in places like Norfolk just because that’s “not where our vote is” or “where we win elections” and to be told to “get to a seat where it actually matters and campaign for real votes.” Just because our poverty comes surrounded by fields and farms it doesn’t make it less working class than someone’s with an inner-city postcode surrounded by tower blocks. But then apparently we need to “get real” and I don’t understand ‘working class Labour’ like you do.

And so instead we just want to ban things.

We want to stop things. We want to tax people. We want to track people. We want to tell them to start doing this and stop doing that. Telling everyone what they should be doing, claiming we’re listening when we’re really ignoring because we don’t really care what they say – we just want their vote, if we’ve decided it ‘matters enough’. We claim politics can change the world when politicians can’t even change people’s minds. We promise the most mind-numbing policies and pledge to change the most basic processes and yet we still fail to deliver them and then blame each other for the fact they didn’t happen.

We are the hypocrites.

And the solution that this warped reality has told itself is the answer? Yep that’s right – politicians talking about meeting ‘ordinary people just like you’ – in parks. Telling you that you should donate and join us in ‘kicking out’ David Cameron because you hate him. Even if you don’t. Even if you hate us all – at least we’re not as bad as them. Them. Those Tories. And I’ll say ‘effing’ because it makes me sound just like you, doesn’t it – and that’s all you want really isn’t it? You just want me to sound like you and then that’ll be it. You’ll trust me then, won’t you?

You just want me to tell you things like I’ll promise a cheeky bit of rail nationalisation and cheaper fuel bills for a year or maybe even a bit of electoral reform – that’s all you want isn’t it? Just a quick tinker around the edges. Because you don’t want much, you just want a bit of hope. Oh you. You’re so fickle, I could promise you anything. And I do, I will. I’ll promise you everything I can and even when you say I won’t keep to my promises, I promise you that I will pledge to keep my promises because everyone deserves a fifth chance and I promise we won’t do it again.

I’ll even say sorry if you want me to.

I’ll even put it on a poster.

I’ll show you can trust me.

We’ve ended up with the gamification of the entire electoral process like some shit TV show on ITV2 called “Who loves the NHS more?”.

And you just want it to stop, but if it stops you’ll realise how messed up the whole thing is – so you just keep going. Speech after speech, doorstep after doorstep. Lie after lie.

So is it any wonder that people don’t find it hard at all to vote for a party that is just as messed up as this entire system itself?

A new, progressive, generation should be allowed to take charge

Britain is creaking under the weight of its own democracy. It badly needs renewal but that is not solved by a new voting system or a new leader. Our country is paralysed with fear about its future and so nervous about where to go next. Quite frankly we are withdrawing piece by piece from the table that will decide our nations future.

And so it is no surprise to me that when my generation is so used to voting, constantly being polled, having their say, empowered to change their lives on a daily basis and constantly talking to people who are less reliant on the media, that we are more skeptical of government and politicians than any other before us.

But what is so bloody brilliant is that despite all this? My generation, perhaps naively, is more optimistic about our future than any other. Despite being constantly let down we believe our best days are still ahead. We’re more creative than any generation before us. We’re more willing to work together, share resources and get involved than any other generation before us.

We believe business can be better and we are innovative enough to make sure it is.

We believe government is not always the answer because people are more powerful than anything else, even though we may be less trusting of each other – we still believe that together we are stronger.

We are more pragmatic and able to make sense of a confused and ever changing world which has paralysed our political system in recent times.

We are more open about our failures and yet more passionate about changing the world around us. We can be more honest because we’re more open to being persuaded than nailing ourselves to a post at the age of 15.

We are the generation finally capable of moving beyond a politics purely motivated by self-interest to help us tackle the biggest problems this country faces, shirked by our elders.

We are more socially liberal than any generation before us, and we have the guts and the ability to change peoples attitudes and confront bigotry and hatred where we see it.

If that’s not progressive then I don’t know what is.

We are the generation that can not only just fix Britain, we can take Britain forward – but we need to be given the chance. I just fear that when we finally wake up from this nightmare it’ll be too late.

If you think more ‘listening’ is the fix to this mess then you are badly mistaken. People want action. They are fed up of people talking and listening and doing absolutely nothing all whilst they watch you ask them for more tax money to fix the problems you’ve failed to even talk let alone act to prevent.

I think we need to talk about my generation, because I believe we have the answers. I’m not sure anybody else is willing to really own up to the scale of the problems we face.

But there we go, back to work.