A Big Society that excludes the young
The Office for National Statistics has just published the latest unemployment figures. They make for depressing reading. Aside from general unemployment rising to 2.5 million, a figure that I thought was behind this country for good, what is particularly soul-destroying is the record figure of just under a million 16 to 24 year-olds unemployed. That is more than one in five.
The news comes hot on the heels of Imperial College being the first university to announce that they will be charging the maximum of £9,000 fees. This leaves an entire generation between a very real rock and a hard place. How does one take the decision of going into massive debt in order to achieve better qualifications, when there is a one-in-five chance that unemployment beckons at the other end? Who, other than banks, benefits from putting young people in huge debt right at the outset of their life? What does a youngster do upon the realisation (to quote Pratchett) that the light at the end of the tunnel is a flame-thrower? But there is hope for young people! If there is one message that shines forth from this government, it is that being completely unskilled to do a job, does not necessarily mean you won’t get it…
This arrogant, patronising, pantomime Prime Minister keeps playing the “it is all the last government’s fault” card – a card which is getting increasingly yellow and frayed. The deficit was inherited. But the current shrinking economy is a result of decisions made by this government. We are the only major economy in Europe not to be going into recovery. Cameron tries to plaster the cracks with high rhetoric that means nothing. The Big Society has become the all-purpose oil that is seeking to sooth increasingly troubled waters. Meanwhile, the kids of rich Tory supporters secure internships at auctions, the bankers keep making huge wads of cash – only now they are called salaries, not bonuses.
Perhaps the hope is that all these unemployed youngsters will take to the streets and volunteer to do the essential work that the state is unwilling to pay for. Only they will be young men and women with few skills and no experience. How will they replace the nurses, the bobbies, the librarians?
We have seen in the last few months what the reaction will be. An entire disillusioned generation will take to the streets to overthrow this miserable government. Let us join them.