Erk. I had a big pile of things I wanted to write about. But a lack of time and a mild bout of blog depression have meant I haven’t been updating. I didn’t realise my last post was as long ago as last Wednesday, but there we go.
Anyway, before I can get motivated enough to write something decent, I thought I’d mention an interesting article I read in last week’s Economist. It touches on a similar topic recently covered on this blog — student apathy.
In addition to the idea that students are politically motivated in general, there is also a stereotype that most of them tend to be left-wing. The statistics in The Economist‘s article then make for very interesting reading.
In 2004–2005 the Liberal Democrats were, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most popular party among students. What’s surprising is the fact that they apparently had the support of over 50% of students! Amazing. Of course, that period saw them at the height of their powers due to their stance on the hugely unpopular Iraq War. Since then, in a reflection of the wider trend, support for the Lib Dems has fallen a fair amount.
That probably correlates a lot with my political views. Back in 2004–2005 I was quite an ardent supporter of the Lib Dems. Now I am more lukewarm.
What is also perhaps surprising is that Labour’s support has not decreased all that much. Even though Labour are limping around, the long-term trend among students is more topsy-turvy and the fall certainly isn’t as dramatic as the Lib Dems’. Nevertheless, fallen they have.
So the Conservatives now apparently have the support of 45% of students. Interesting. The Economist has been having a bit of fun and games with this. “A man who is not a socialist at 20 has no heart, whereas one who is still a socialist at 40 has no head” — so are today’s students heartless?
I suppose one obvious response to this would be to say that Labour are not socialists. But nor are the Conservatives. You would expect a surge in support for the Greens or another far-left party (SSP / Respect / what-have-you). But the Tories?
I think the answer lies more in this:
For today’s young rebels in search of a cause, the Left is the establishment: an 18-year-old starting university this autumn will have been just seven when Labour came to power.
Students are not disproportionately left-wing in my view. If they were, then they aren’t now. I think most people my age are pretty weary of socialism because a basic reading of its history should tell you to be weary of it. In my highly unscientific and no doubt prejudicial straw poll that I have conducted in my head, many of the most left-wing people at university were also the ones who probably had the highest incomes.
Just as for those who grew up in the 1980s the Conservatives were the establishment party not to be trusted, today’s youngsters are growing up with a deep, deep resentment towards the Labour party. These days it is almost certainly cooler to be a Conservative supporter than a Labour supporter. And given Labour’s record in government, who can blame students for thinking so?
As a side-effect, if it finally means the world will finally be rid of those deeply hypocritical Che Guevara t-shirts, then thank goodness for that!