A na­tion di­vided into two age camps

Ge­orge Ea­ton New States­man

The Week - - News | Best Articles: Britain -

The best clue as to how Bri­tons vote used to be their so­cial class, says Ge­orge Ea­ton. Not any more. Now, it’s their age. “At the 2017 gen­eral elec­tion, the gen­er­a­tion gap was the largest since polling records be­gan.” Al­most two-thirds of 18- to 24-year-olds voted Labour, just 27% for the Tories – a mir­ror im­age of the way the over-65s voted. Di­vi­sions be­tween young and old are hardly un­prece­dented – think of the stu­dent riots of the 1960s – but they are par­tic­u­larly pro­nounced to­day ow­ing to the starkly dif­fer­ent prospects fac­ing boomers and mil­len­ni­als. The el­derly en­joy prop­erty wealth, gen­er­ous pen­sions and uni­ver­sal ben­e­fits such as win­ter fuel pay­ments; the young are bur­dened with stu­dent debt, job in­se­cu­rity and the near-im­pos­si­bil­ity of get­ting on the hous­ing lad­der. The Brexit ref­er­en­dum has com­pounded this di­vide: three quar­ters of 18- to 24-year-olds voted Re­main; nearly two-thirds of over-65s voted Leave. For young peo­ple, who have a much more pos­i­tive view of im­mi­gra­tion than their older peers, the vote “in­ten­si­fied the sense of a world be­yond their con­trol”.

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