In which I get down with the (very angry)kids again …

*** UPDATE***

My children have obviously been pondering the whole issue of inter-generational equity today.

They have just told me that – with regret – they and their friends will be unable to make any contribution to my generation’s health and social care needs in later life.

Something to do with sauces and geese.

Anyway here’s the orginal post approved by the RPS children.


The RPS infants are not fire-breathing radicals intent on the overthrow of the state. Nevertheless their reaction to yesterday’s events in London may explain why young people are so angry.

My mild-mannered children are seething. The cause? They feel silly because they believed what they heard. They heard the words, ‘I pledge to vote against … ‘ and took them at face-value without seeing any small print or hearing any mental reservation. When you feel you have been had in such an egregious way you get cross.

Of course it doesn’t help that Mrs RPS and I did issue a health warning at the time about politicians’ promises – ‘like pie crust – made to be broken’. They dismissed us as cynics. These guys were different, they said. We want the ‘new politics’ they promise. But, of course, instead they got the old politics. And they’re as mad as hell.

I watched the votes with our two youngest last night and then quite a bit of the televised mayhem from London.

They were bemused by the parliamentary process particularly that they couldn’t immediately tell who had voted for what. As that tale unfolded their contempt was withering. They dismissed the Labour jeering as ‘pathetic’ but that was positively polite next to the terms they used to describe the Liberal Democrats.

I asked why they weren’t as angry with the Conservatives. They told me that they knew the Tories were ‘nasty’ and they didn’t support them anyway. No, their wrath was directed at the other partners in the coalition in general and at those who followed their leader in voting for the proposals in particular. (I should add that the abstainers are viewed with particular scorn.)

We have always encouraged our children to question what they see in the world around them. To think. So I tried to put the liberal democrat case. They had to compromise. The national finances were worse than they expected. There are no up front fees. And so on. It was unavailing.

My children have a command of the brief  that filled me with pride.

They dismiss no up front fees. They point out that they are ambitious and want to be earning over £21,000 a year. So they believe that they will definitely have a bill of some where over £30,000 to pay.

They dismiss the deficit reduction argument. If it was about that they say the government would be introducing it with more urgency and, they have heard, that the scheme overall is likely to cost the taxpayer rather than save. They think the proposals are about shifting the financial burden of producing an educated work force on to students.

They dismiss the ‘we had to compromise’ argument too. They didn’t compromise over changing the voting system did they, they ask? They thought ‘students, who cares?’

Talking with my children took me into the world as they see it right now. It’s not a great place to be. As they rehearsed the things they are worried about I was taken straight to Patrick Butler’s cuts blog piece about how government choices around deficit reduction were impacting on young people.

My children are anticipating starting their working lives encumbered by huge debts, in a labour market where graduate unemployment is worryingly high, where housing is unaffordable and with parents who simply will not be able to help financially.

They do not see their future as being one alight with promise and opportunity. In many ways they are dreading it. No wonder our young people are cross. They have been comprehensively had.

At the ‘all you can eat’ buffet of our national life the sharp-elbowed baby-boomers have stripped the groaning tables like locusts leaving a few green leaves and the odd stick of celery. My children and their peers feel their treatment at the hands of older generations is deeply, deeply unfair.

But from my conversations with my children I would caution any other political party against complacency. The kids loathe you all. The depth of the contempt in which you are held by my children makes it difficult for me to think of any practical way you might regain their trust.

For example, they thought you meant it when you said you would give voters the right to recall errant MPs. They now know you meant it in a quite specific way that means they will not be able to recall any of you who broke your word.

Interestingly my two also had something to say about AV. Forget it, seemed to be drift. Anything that makes it easier for professional politicians to wriggle out of doing the things that induced them to vote for you is off their agenda. They are less concerned with having every vote count than with making sure that their vote delivers the thing they voted for.

They want a voting system that keeps you honest not just in office.

I told you they were cross. I would be too.


About redundantpublicservant

A redundant UK public servant looking for work, sharing his experiences and providing a space for others to do the same.
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20 Responses to In which I get down with the (very angry)kids again …

  1. Indeed there has always been some form of unwritten ‘social contract’ and at times some causes call this into question and polarise society. Whether the particular cause here of the HE issues will quietly go away now the vote has happened or not, we have a bunch of kids out there who have tasted their first sense of being able to take action. I was struck in the footage by numbers who did not look like intending to be peaceful about their protest and who might, at another time simply have ‘had a go’ at the forces of law and order on their own estates – some not that far from where I work.
    These kids may well be seeing that there are opportunities that they can have their say in other ways than the political process and many of them have nothing to lose. France has already seen this phenomenon.
    I do wonder whether the savage cuts and the ‘remedy’ applied in HE may spawn an unintended set of actions that the police may be stretched to deal with…. apparently they came mighty close to not managing yesterday.
    What is it the politicos keep quoting – the first duty of government is to protect its citizens…….

    • Mean Mr Mustard says:

      “No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up”. (Lily Tomlin)

      This curmudgeon spoiled his ballot paper. A plague on all their houses.

    • Dear Roger,

      Thanks for the comment. I was struck too by some of the young people interviewed who essentially said the same thing. If you have little or no stake in society where, rationally, is the upside in doing what that society wants? All very depressing and, of course, the local government settlement arrives next week. I don’t think the news will get any better.


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  3. Luke says:

    I’m old (well, 44), cynical and saw a Labour Party I’d voted for take us into a war that no one wanted and yet I feel more betrayed by the LibDems actions on this one issue then I did by Blair on Iraq.

    It’s not that they changed their minds (that’s par for the course), it’s the fact that they had made tuition fees such a cornerstone of their campaign, part of their USP.

    And now, as it turns out, they’re enjoying the feel of being in power so much that they can find any number of reasons why they need to break that promise and no reasons at all to keep it.

    Most of all, though, I feel I’ve let my children down. I voted for a party who I thought would safeguard their education and here I am handing my kids a £30k debt before they do their first day at work.

    That’s why I feel betrayed and that’s why the LibDems will never see my vote again.

    • localgov says:

      That’s only if they go to Uni though. Perhaps this might encourage more young people to start working rather than going to university, and spending that time gaining experience rather than certificates – both of which should qualify you to do a job.

      Of course, that doesn’t apply to doctors, lawyers etc, but should for the majority of jobs advertised which cite ‘graduate’ status when they really shouldn’t.

      • Dear localgov,

        I think it is a great shame that many professions became graduate entry. Many of the outstanding public servants I have worked with did just as you describe. I learned an awful lot from them.


      • finovotny says:

        The ‘get a job’ argument is, unfortunately, no longer valid as there are few jobs for the 18-25 set (1 in 5 unemployed at last count). Fewer still for those without degrees. Whether or not some jobs “should” be citing graduate status becomes a moot point in a market where those who left school at 16 or 18 have to compete with graduates for exactly the same McJobs which used to provide an entry into employment for school-leavers, simply because there aren’t enough actual graduate jobs to go around.

      • Dear finovotny,

        Thank you for visiting the blog and commenting. It’s a very tough labour market out there just now – don’t I know it.

        Fingers crossed that the recovery picks up pace.

        Best wishes


    • Dear Luke,

      Thanks for visiting the blog and taking time to comment.

      This isn’t a political blog but it is hard sometimes not to get drawn into controversy. For us as a family student finances, employment and affordable housing are the big issues facing our children. (Leaving aside my redundancy.)

      At least my children are now thoroughly energised and engaged with politics.


  4. chrisconder says:

    I don’t do politics. Four legs good, two legs bad is all I can say. I agree with the kids, the system sucks, you can’t trust anyone to do what they say (with a few notable exceptions) and this country is very short of moral fibre.
    The way to get an education is to DIY. get a job to support yourself and take the burden off your parents, then do it online. We did that in the old days before kids could get to university. They called it night school, and it created many clever people who went on to start businesses and make the country great.
    In order to be taxed to the hilt to support the social revolution.
    Its now time for a digital revolution. I don’t agree with protest marches, they bring out the hangers on who spoil it for the cause. The way to beat the system is to educate yourself. Like you are doing with your kids. Talk, listen and learn. The next generation are not daft. They will vote with their feet. Right on to a plane to a country which supports innovation and common sense. If we don’t buck up our ideas soon and get rid of all the corruption and hype coming out of Westminster all we will be left with are the one who need supporting. We need the bright people to generate employment and prosperity. To keep them they need to know they can trust the politicians. The deact (pushed through washup at the end of the last parliament) proved that democracy is dead. A lot of work must be done to stamp out this sort of thing happening again.
    Aye, bring on the moral fibre. And the optic fibre, to bring decent connectivity and the university of the world into our country.


    • Mean Mr Mustard says:

      Top post Chris!!! +100. RPS will be along later to give you a gold star.

      Yes to online / home educayshun – I’m a big fan of the Open University.

      And yes please to some moral fibre and integrity too – no more travel costs and so much else being refunded – but only when found out. ‘Those misappropriated public funds were inadvertently resting in my account” would never be acceptable in a Civil Service disciplinary hearing, and the same should be especially true for those who seek to govern us. But it isn’t. They get to ‘apologise’ – and keep their inflated salaries and perks.

      And today’s ghastly news of no less than a former Minister of Defence being found to have offered MoD information – classified, commercial in confidence, sensitive stuff in the SDSR – to what he thought were business representatives, ought to be attracting a long stretch inside Pentonville for facilitating insider trading at the very least. Not mere exclusion from the Member’s Bar. Yet, a spell inside would certainly be on the cards for any leak-prone CS…

    • Dear Chris,

      Thank you for the comment. The DEACT was profoundly depressing wasn’t it?

      Best wishes


  5. Frankfrankly says:

    “They point out that they are ambitious and want to be earning over £21,000 a year.” So they want to earn the money but not to pay their way for the advantage they get-an advantage being paid for by people earning far less than they intend to. How can this be right? Isn’t that nasty? You seem to have brought up your children to have a spirit of entitlement. You seem to be able to convince yourself that you and they are entitled to be outraged because your children are being asked to accept responsibility for their futures. Clear evidence that the Coalition is doing the right thing.

    • Dear Frankfrankly,

      Thank you for reading the blog and taking the time to comment.

      Perhaps I explained myself clumsily in the post. The point they made was that having a cut off below which you pay nothing creates some perverse incentives. I don’t think that’s nasty really, is it? Sounds like a perfectly rational piece of thinking to me.

      If the country has decided graduates should pay for the advantage of going to university then I think all graduates – including people like me – should ante-up. One of the most obnoxious facets of what is happening now in my children’s eyes is the sight of ladders being drawn up after them by a political class that benefitted most from the old dispensation. If the principle is right then why does it make sense to exclude the 8 million or so graduates – including all of those in Parliament – already in the labour market?

      I think I would have failed in my responsibilities as a parent and a citizen if my children did have the sense of entitlement of which you speak. Each of them is already working in different ways and the oldest amongst them for quite some time. I started work on a farm at 12 and I have worked ever since – even when I was at university in more halcyon days – so I have taught my children the value of hard work and self-reliance.

      They are not outraged because they are being asked to accept responsibility for their futures. Far from it. They are outraged because they feel they were sold a pup.

      Best wishes


  6. Hannah says:

    Nice post RPS, I’m new to your blog but saw it linked to on a Guardian writer’s twitter. This sums up a lot of how I feel about the tuition fee rise, though as a 22 year old who’s observed the response from my age group of recent graduates, I’m a lot less hopeful that the lib dem betrayal will lead to the politicisation of a generation. Lots of my facebook friends have been writing that they are glad to have already graduated, because they won’t have to worry about fees – selfishness and apathy are alive and well among the younger generation, it seems.

    I agree with chrisconder that Britain is going to lose its best minds to other countries. Not that I’d be so arrogant as to call myself one of those, but I am applying for PhDs and making sure to keep up my languages so I could potentially teach in America, where there will still be humanities depts left in five years.

    I worked for a Labour MP during my university summer holidays but didn’t join the party, mainly because of Iraq and Afghanistan. I (like a number of my friends) finally joined following the election because I was so worried and angry about what might happen – I realised that we are now living in a new age where we need to stop worrying about our personal integrity, and just collectively organise organise organise. Still, I’m really disappointed that they have been such a hopeless opposition so far – a wasted opportunity, when they could have picked up so many disillusioned young voters, as well as sweeping up all the ex-Lib Dems. There is no-one to represent us except ourselves, don’t even mention the self-serving NUS.

    • Dear Hannah,

      Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment. You’ll see in a response from me to another comment that I think there’s more existing graduates should be doing if we, as a nation, believe that people who benefit directly from a university education should make a contribution towards its costs.

      I hope your plans meet with success.

      Best wishes


  7. Frankfrankly says:

    I’m afraid the pup was sold when 1) John Major turned all Polys into universities and 2) Tony Blair came up with the crazy 50% participation target without sustainable funding. Arguably, we have too many HE students-subjects such as photography are vocational & could be done in less time than a 3 year degree course.

    Why should the 55% on much lower incomes generally than graduates subsidise the 45% who will earn £100,000+ more (and be their bosses). In the days when I was at university 88% subsidised the 12% in HE. Bankers did not have degrees, so many well-off people paid for the 12% [arguably even this was not moral].

    We need to rebalance our education system like we do with the economy. Above all, we need to pay our way in the world & as individuals take full responsibility for our own lives, only then are we able to afford welfare, the NHS etc. We have a desparate need to relearn this lesson. Nobody owes our country a living and we must get out of the habit of believing so.

    As a councillor I have been part of reducing the budget by 20% & the workforce by 10% with no diminuation in services. There is so much waste, bureaucracy, inefficiency and overlap locally & nationally. We cannot go on as we have been.

    • Dear Frankfrankly,

      Thank you for the follow up comment. I think we’re getting to the boundary of the territory I staked out for this blog – the personal impact on me and mine of being in the frontline of deficit reduction.

      I’m, of course, passionately interested in the big issues you raise not least because how they get resolved will impact of each of us. If I ever start purely political blogging perhaps we could take the debate on.

      Thank you for your courtesy and good luck with the settlement tomorrow.

      Best wishes


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