Britain’s Old, Old Politics

The political class—where “the average MP is 50 years old; the average councillor is 60″— appears increasingly sealed off from the classical liberal outlook of the next generation:

The young want Leviathan to butt out of their pay cheques as well as their bedrooms. Compared with their elders, they are welfare cynics. Almost 70% of the pre-war generation, and 61% of baby-boomers, believe that the creation of the welfare state is one of Britain’s proudest achievements. Under 30% of those born after 1979 agree. The young are deficit-reduction hawks. They worry about global warming, but still generally lean towards Mill’s minimal “nightwatchman state” when it comes to letting business get on with it: they are relaxed about the growth of giant supermarkets, for example. …

Far from courting them, the big political parties are running in precisely the opposite direction. Spooked by UKIP, the Conservatives shuffle their feet when the subject of gay marriage comes up. They are preparing to fight the 2015 general election on an anti-immigration platform. Labour has social liberalism to spare. But it has opposed welfare cuts and rediscovered its historical enthusiasm for economic meddling, which it calls “predistribution”. The Chinese leadership quotes Adam Smith more often than Ed Miliband does.