The Tories’ strategy is based on an assumption that young people are politically inactive, or do only sporadic actions, not week-in week-out, year-after-year organising.
The assumption seems odd. The cynical old saying goes: “Not to be a radical at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one after thirty is proof of want of head”.
Yet the Tories have noticeably left benefits for older people relatively intact, while slashing everything else.
At the start of January David Cameron promised to continue increasing the basic state pension by at least 2.5 per cent, and in line with the higher of inflation and earnings, each year until 2020.
Chancellor George Osborne claims the economy is recovering from depression, but said: “We’ve got to make more cuts – £17 billion this coming year, £20 billion next year, and over £25 billion further across the two years after. That’s more than £60 billion in total”.
Both wages and most benefits are already lagging behind inflation, so the state pension is almost the only income, other than the revenues of the rich, to increase these days.
In 2012 the Financial Times found that, even before reckoning housing costs, usually higher for the young, on average “disposable incomes of householders in their 60s [had] overtaken those of householders in their 20s for the first time since official household income data were collected 50 years ago”.
Eight in 10 over-60s vote, compared with just four in 10 of 18-24s.
Across Europe, 36% of people aged 30 and over say they are “quite interested in politics”, but only 26% of 16-24s.
Political parties, trade unions, and even many campaigns find their activists mostly among older people.
Struggles between the late 1960s and the early 1980s moved millions into long-term political activity. Only a minority have stuck to it, but that minority is larger than the percentage active among generations brought up in decades of defeat.
That is fact, but it is not law. The facts will change. The Tories are giving young people direct and immediate practical motives to change the facts.