The Lost Generation: Warning to parties in chase for 'grey votes'

North East peer Lord Beecham has accused the Government of chasing the 'grey vote' at the expense of the young

Chasing the 'grey vote' worries campaigners including Labour peer Lord Beecham
Chasing the 'grey vote' worries campaigners including Labour peer Lord Beecham

A leading North East peer has accused the coalition of chasing the “grey vote” at the expense of the young.

Campaigners say young people are being disproportionately targeted in Government austerity cuts so ministers can protect older people who are statistically more likely to vote.

David Cameron has pledged to continue guaranteed rises in the basic state pension and hinted at tax cuts if the Conservatives win the next general election.

But there are warnings afoot that the situation will create “a war between generations”.

High levels of youth unemployment, increased university tuition fees and the difficulty of getting a mortgage have been cited as problems affecting young people, along with changes to the benefit system.

All this week The Journal is looking at the problems facing young people in our series The Lost Generation.

North East peer Lord Beecham says tailoring a political policy to one particular age group is not the actions of a good democracy.

Lord Jeremy Beecham
Lord Jeremy Beecham
 

“It’s true, many more older people vote than younger people,” he said. “But that’s no excuse for tailoring your policy to that objective. We need to get more people involved and address their concerns.”

Lord Beecham also said it was wrong to pit the older generation against the young, as many older people want nothing more than for their young families and friends to prosper.

He said: “By targeting the older vote, the Government is running the risk of turning the young against the old, which is wrong.

“I don’t know of anyone in their later years who wants to gain more from politicians than anyone else. Many of us have young relatives who we want to see do well in life. We want the policies in place in order for them to do that.”

Alistair Clark is a senior lecturer in politics at Newcastle University and specialises in voting behaviour. He said that although young people are less likely to physically go out and vote, this does not mean that they are not politically active.

“Young people often form protest groups or take to social media to cast their political views,” he said. “They are by no means uninterested in politics and what it means for their future livelihoods.

“High levels of youth unemployment, increased university tuition fees and the difficulty of getting on the housing ladder is bound to be worrying young people.

“The Government claims it has no choice, but Governments always have a choice. They can choose to do things differently. We have to assume that this is a deliberate choice.

“Young people seem to have got out of the habit of voting which is worrying for British democracy.”

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