Monday, 4 October 2010

Ed Miliband's "New Generation"

Hugo Rifkind in The Times
October 2 2010

Frankly, political demographics should be easier than this to lampoon. David Cameron’s people lust for a fuel-guzzling Aga and an eco-electric scooter. Tony Blair’s people wanted to be filthy rich, but still socialists.

But who are Ed Miliband’s New Generation? How can we ridicule them? Part of the problem is that they are not all the same generation. “The new generation is not simply defined by age,” said Miliband, “but by attitudes and ideals.” Bit vague, Ed. Maybe New Generation membership is something you can have, but never know about. Like chlamydia.

Although maybe there’s more to it. The New Generation might not all be 19, but they all think the things that 19-year-olds think. Perhaps just what they thought when they were 19 themselves. Are you one of them? Did you have kids, but not necessarily get married? Did you pick a career that won’t fund the lifestyle you want? Are you bright and well-meaning, but stressed, broke, and exhausted?

Well, then. Join the club.

Your home

You know that really nice area? With the elegant houses and the chic little shops? Well, you don’t live there. You live in that other, grubbier area quite near by, without any trees. You bought the biggest place you could afford, and then you painted it white inside and filled it with all the stuff you could find in Ikea which looked like it came from somewhere else. Your shelves strain under the weight of Booker Prize-nominated novels by J. M. Coetzee and Ian McEwan which you bought in 3-for-2 deals at the W H Smith at the airport, but never read. You probably have too many plants.

Your friends

You’ve got loads but tend to mainly speak to them on Twitter. “That was a great night!” you’ll tweet at each other, after the rare occasions you actually meet up. Although it never really is a great night, because you both spent it sitting in silence, on your phones, competitively sucking up to @eddieizzard.

Your clothes

There was a time, not that long ago, when you were really quite trendy. But then you got that job which meant you had to wear that suit, even though you swore you always wouldn’t. If you’re a man, your suits are from M&S but don’t look it, honestly, particularly when you wear them with one of those relatively expensive ties. If you’re a woman, you reckon labels are for idiots but you might change your mind when you get that promotion.

Your free time

You are incapable of saying the word “gastropub” without putting on a funny voice. Actually, you eat in them quite a lot. You consider yourself quite fond of nightclubs, but haven’t set foot in one for at least a decade. You probably wouldn’t even know which drugs to buy any more. Your favourite TV programme is Peep Show. Sometimes, you forget that David Mitchell isn’t actually a friend. Lately, you’ve been listening to Vampire Weekend a lot on Spotify. You also used to like cycling, but now you worry about the connotations.

Your beliefs

You’ve got quite a lot of these. Bankers and lawyers are bad, although the ones you know from university are all quite pleasant. Tony Blair was bad, although you voted for him ceaselessly, and Gordon Brown was worse, but he probably meant well. The Iraq war was bad, Israel is bad and big cars are also bad, which is just as well because you can’t afford one. Organic food used to be good, but since David Cameron started going on about it it’s probably become bad and elitist, too.

Your holidays

Three weeks before your annual leave is due to expire, you realise you have a fortnight left. It’s too late to book, so you get a last-minute flight to the capital of a faintly romantic sounding Third World or former Eastern Bloc nation. You have an innate horror of being seen as a tourist, so you spend most of your time on slow yet terrifying local buses. Then you come home with dysentery. This happens every year.

Your age

Probably somewhere between 25 and 40. But that’s entirely coincidental.

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