The Spectator’s latest debate – Stop Whining Young People: You’ve Never Had It So Good – was most disgracefully skewed in favour of the proposition. Not only did the epically relaxed moderator Toby Young flagrantly and self-confessedly side with the proposers but so too did the event sponsor, Alan Warner of Duncan Lawrie private banking.
Warner recalled, in his introductory speech, how very difficult it had been as a young man coming to terms with the fact that he would never be able to afford to live, like his parents’ generation, in Chelsea. Instead, he had to venture to the exotic reaches of the Angel, Islington and had to endure years of taunts on the lines of ‘Well I know where it is on the Monopoly board. It’s the last pale blue cheap one before you get to the jail’.
Still it was a good point well made and got to the very heart of the problem faced by those opposing the motion: yes it may feel right that today’s struggling yoof with their student loans and their unpaid internships are having it tougher than ever. But unfortunately there’s just no hard evidence to support it.
As both economics editor Jeremy Warner and social trends analyst Paul Flatters noted in their sparkling proposition speeches, on every measure – health, standard of living, GDP per capita growth, technological advances, potential longevity – today’s young generation are the most blessed in all history. Plus, according to the event’s comedy turn – a weird, nervy, skinny fellow called James Delingpole – they have much easier access than any before them to life’s three main essentials – sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll (Tinder/Grindr; Silk Road; Spotify – in case you wondered).
Faced with these overwhelming arguments, the motion’s opposers had no option but to die valiantly on the wire. Personal finance writer Katie Morley (at 25, the only actual member of Generation Y on the panel) did so with youthful passion and earnestness; Ed Howker – journalist and author of Jilted Generation: How Britain Bankrupted its Youth, did so with wit and magisterial eloquence; Tottenham MP David Lammy did so with a smooth, loftily wearied, and gently affecting plea on behalf of his Labour party’s brand of apparently benign and caring statism.
But it wasn’t enough. Though the opposers won the most votes in total, they lost on rhetoric: 15 members of the audience who had voted against the motion at the beginning had been persuaded to change their minds by the end.