Debt is central to the lives of Generation Y, while their parents had fun for free. Photo: Flickr/Eden, Janine and Jim
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Shouldering the cost of the Baby Boomer legacy is destroying my generation's prospects

It's time for young people to fight inter-generational injustice – and it may be that top-down bureaucracy is one way to do it.

It’s always nice, when you suspect that you may be being screwed, to have it confirmed officially by those in power. It just helps firm things up a bit, mentally.

Being a part of Generation Y (also known in newspeak as the “fuck it”, or “lost” generation, which consists of “millennials”, or people born roughly between the early Eighties and the early 2000s) naturally means facing a parade of regular headlines to that effect, but confirmation has now been received.

The Office for Budget Responsibility’s FSR report has offered said confirmation by informing us that UK debt is snowballing with terrifying momentum and that it is the young who will be hit hardest.

This is, essentially, because baby boomers keep making fiscal promises to themselves which their children will be required to shoulder. The gap between the UK’s assets and liabilities grew, in the last five years as of March 2014, to £1,852bn. If you include unfunded state pension liabilities, you can add another £4,000bn to that.

The report confirms one released by the Centre for Policy Studies earlier this month entitled “Who Will Care For Generation Y?”, a question I ask frequently while kneeling on the floor and gesticulating at the empty sky above. And yet, still no one answers.

If you’re a member of my generation and you’re reading this, you don’t need me to tell you that we have enough on our plates without spiralling debt as well. We’re already facing a housing crisis that feels like a waking nightmare, with rents and house prices rising well past the point of absurdity (the average rent in London hit £1,500 a month for the first time just two days ago).

Then there’s student debt, which we all try not to think about because opening the letter to discover that you’ve only made enough money to cover the interest and that the sum of monies owed remains the same is a crushing experience like no other (stop opening the letters, is my advice).

And that’s before we even get to talking about the weird, fragmented careers that so many of us are saddled with, comprising zero-hours contracts, low-paid, unreliable work and jobs tutoring the children of Russian oligarchs.

The Centre for Policy Studies says we’ll be the first generation to be worse off than our parents, but still, we’re expected to foot the bill. They call it “inter-generational injustice”, but you don’t need me to tell you that what it actually represents is a total shitshow.

So what do we do about it? The CPS is today recommending that an Office For Inter-Generational Responsibility be established. At the moment, prospective legislation must be accompanied by an impact assessment analysing its costs and benefits, but assessments that look at the impact of legislation on young people, who are future taxpayers, do not exist – and they should, for obvious reasons.

The Office For Inter-Generational responsibility would co-ordinate these impact assessments. It all sounds highly bureaucratic but what it ultimately means is that a body will exist that has a fiduciary duty towards future taxpayers as well as current taxpayers. What it all comes down to is the need for those in power to take some time to consider the impact of their decisions on future generations; something we can all agree that previous governments have not been doing enough.

Politicians are known for pursuing short-term goals, a tendency that is not helped by pressure from self-interested lobbyists, nor the fact that young people are less likely to vote or engage with the political system.

The CPS report has several ideas for how we go about reducing the financial burden on the young, including reducing tax reliefs, but the one I’m perhaps least convinced would work is that we “embrace digital democracy” by starting an e-petition asking for our own designated minister. Certainly a Minister for Younger People is a very good idea, but could we actually garner a million signatures?

Perhaps I’m jaded because the one I signed to legalise space cakes has yet to come to fruition, but I just can’t see a million people signing up for something so BBI (Boring But Important). And yet, more than that tuned in for the season six premiere of Made in Chelsea. It’s a bleak state of affairs.

But it’s worth a try. We’re obviously in need of a vocal, galvanised political movement of young people, one that isn’t made up of university debating society tosspots, but real people. Perhaps Russell Brand could take it on – young people love him, apparently (though clearly not enough to back Ed Miliband). I’d like to see Owen Jones write a book about inter-generational injustice – he’s done Chavs, and the Establishment, could we have one on Boomers next?

Or perhaps I could transform my personal anger towards the “Escape to the Sun” generation into some kind of furious national movement? I like my parents but the rest of them, with their free university educations, buy-to-lets, sexual liberation, top quality drugs and Cash in the Attic have caused me no end of trouble. Thanks, guys. Really. Much appreciated.

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett is a writer for the New Statesman and the Guardian. She co-founded The Vagenda blog and is co-author of The Vagenda: A Zero Tolerance Guide to the Media.

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Why isn't Labour putting forward Corbynite candidates?

Despite his successes as a candidate, the organisational victories have gone the way of Corbyn's opponents. 

The contest changes, but the result remains the same: Jeremy Corbyn’s preferred candidate defeated in a parliamentary selection. Afzhal Khan is Labour’s candidate in the Manchester Gorton by-election and the overwhelming favourite to be the seat’s next MP.

Although Khan, an MEP, was one of  the minority of Labour’s European MPs to dissent from a letter from the European parliamentary Labour party calling for Jeremy Corbyn to go in the summer of 2016, he backed Andy Burnham and Tom Watson in 2015, and it is widely believed, fairly or unfairly, that Khan had, as one local activist put it, “the brains to know which way the wind was blowing” rather than being a pukka Corbynite.

For the leader’s office, it was a double defeat;  their preferred candidate, Sam Wheeler, was kept off the longlist, when the party’s Corbynsceptics allied with the party’s BAME leadership to draw up an all ethnic minority shortlist, and Yasmine Dar, their back-up option, was narrowly defeated by Khan among members in Manchester Gorton.

But even when the leadership has got its preferred candidate to the contest, they have been defeated. That even happened in Copeland, where the shortlist was drawn up by Corbynites and designed to advantage Rachel Holliday, the leader’s office preferred candidate.

Why does the Labour left keep losing? Supporters combination of bad luck and bad decisions for the defeat.

In Oldham West, where Michael Meacher, a committed supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s, was succeeded by Jim McMahon, who voted for Liz Kendall, McMahon was seen to be so far ahead that they had no credible chance of stopping him. Rosena Allin-Khan was a near-perfect candidate to hold the seat of Tooting: a doctor at the local hospital, the seat’s largest employer, with links to both the Polish and Pakistani communities that make up the seat’s biggest minority blocs.  Gillian Troughton, who won the Copeland selection, is a respected local councillor.

But the leadership has also made bad decisions, some claim.  The failure to get a candidate in Manchester Gorton was particularly egregious, as one trade unionist puts it: “We all knew that Gerald was not going to make it [until 2020], they had a local boy with good connections to the trade unions, that contest should have been theirs for the taking”. Instead, they lost control of the selection panel because Jeremy Corbyn missed an NEC meeting – the NEC is hung at present as the Corbynsceptics sacrificed their majority of one to retain the chair – and with it their best chance of taking the seat.

Others close to the leadership point out that for the first year of Corbyn’s leadership, the leader’s office was more preoccupied with the struggle for survival than it was with getting more of its people in. Decisions in by-elections were taken on the hop and often in a way that led to problems later down the line. It made sense to keep Mo Azam, from the party’s left, off the shortlist in Oldham West when Labour MPs were worried for their own seats and about the Ukip effect if Labour selected a minority candidate. But that enraged the party’s minority politicians and led directly to the all-ethnic-minority shortlist in Manchester Gorton.

They also point out that the party's councillor base, from where many candidates are drawn, is still largely Corbynsceptic, though they hope that this will change in the next round of local government selections. (Councillors must go through a reselection process at every election.)

But the biggest shift has very little to do with the Labour leadership. The big victories for the Labour left in internal battles under Ed Miliband were the result of Unite and the GMB working together. Now they are, for various reasons, at odds and the GMB has proven significantly better at working shortlists and campaigning for its members to become MPs.  That helps Corbynsceptics. “The reason why so many of the unions supported Jeremy the first time,” one senior Corbynite argues, “Is they wanted to move the Labour party a little bit to the left. They didn’t want a socialist transformation of the Labour party. And actually if you look at the people getting selected they are not Corbynites, but they are not Blairites either, and that’s what the unions wanted.”

Regardless of why, it means that, two years into Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour left finds itself smaller in parliament than it was at the beginning.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.