Lots to cry about for the young. Photo: Ute Grabowsky
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George Osborne's Budget is an attack on the young

Don't vote, don't get.

Perhaps the young should blame themselves. Only 43 per cent of under-25s voted in the general election, compared with 78 per cent of over-65s. Now George Osborne has shown them the ugly consequences: fail to vote and, especially in an age of austerity, you make yourself an easy target for politicians.

That is the message from the Chancellor’s budget. Housing benefit has been abolished for under-21s. The introduction of a living wage (albeit rather less spectacular than it seems) does not apply to under-25s. Effectively this means people will be regarded as “young” – and paid accordingly – until the age of 25, rather than 21 today, the age when the young person’s minimum wage is applicable until.

And, to particular opprobrium, it has been announced that maintenance grants will be replaced by maintenance loans from 2016-17 – meaning that the poorest students will accrue more debt than the richest ones. At least the maintenance loans will exceed the grants available today, so disadvantaged students will have access to more funds than is currently the case, which is why Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, did not condemn the move on access grounds.

Yet there is more bad news in higher education. The government has announced that there will be a consultation into whether the point at which tuition fees are paid back £21,000 – should rise in line with inflation, as was previously planned. If the threshold is frozen for five years, as is being mooted, it means that graduates earning 12 per cent less in real terms will have to endure an extra 9 per cent marginal tax rate. This regressive policy risks undoing the great progressive improvement of the tuition fee changes enacted by the Coalition: that a new graduate on £21,000 has to pay back none of their loan compared with £540 a year under the old system. And it points to a wider intergenerational injustice: we are constantly told that indulgences to pensioners, like the triple-lock, free TV licenses and the winter fuel allowance cannot be taken away without sufficient notice. Yet the terms of under which young people pay back their tuition fee loans now face being changed retrospectively. 

So there is plenty for young people to get angry about in the budget. They had better get used to it: with no sign of the turnout gap between old and young diminishing and an ageing population, the young are becoming even easier to ignore. 

Tim Wigmore is a contributing writer to the New Statesman and the author of Second XI: Cricket In Its Outposts.

Steve Garry
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The footie is back. Three weeks in and what have we learned so far?

Barcleys, boots and big names... the Prem is back.

Another season, another reason for making whoopee cushions and giving them to Spurs fans to cheer them up during the long winter afternoons ahead. What have we learned so far?

Big names are vital. Just ask the manager of the Man United shop. The arrival of Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger has done wonders for the sale of repro tops and they’ve run out of letters. Benedict Cumberbatch, please join Carlisle United. They’re desperate for some extra income.

Beards are still in. The whole Prem is bristling with them, the skinniest, weediest player convinced he’s Andrea Pirlo. Even my young friend and neighbour Ed Miliband has grown a beard, according to his holiday snaps. Sign him.

Boots Not always had my best specs on, but here and abroad I detect a new form of bootee creeping in – slightly higher on the ankle, not heavy-plated as in the old days but very light, probably made from the bums of newborn babies.

Barclays Still driving me mad. Now it’s screaming from the perimeter boards that it’s “Championing the true Spirit of the Game”. What the hell does that mean? Thank God this is its last season as proud sponsor of the Prem.

Pitches Some groundsmen have clearly been on the weeds. How else can you explain the Stoke pitch suddenly having concentric circles, while Southampton and Portsmouth have acquired tartan stripes? Go easy on the mowers, chaps. Footballers find it hard enough to pass in straight lines.

Strips Have you seen the Everton third kit top? Like a cheap market-stall T-shirt, but the colour, my dears, the colour is gorgeous – it’s Thames green. Yes, the very same we painted our front door back in the Seventies. The whole street copied, then le toot middle classes everywhere.

Scott Spedding Which international team do you think he plays for? I switched on the telly to find it was rugby, heard his name and thought, goodo, must be Scotland, come on, Scotland. Turned out to be the England-France game. Hmm, must be a member of that famous Cumbrian family, the Speddings from Mirehouse, where Tennyson imagined King Arthur’s Excalibur coming out the lake. Blow me, Scott Spedding turns out to be a Frenchman. Though he only acquired French citizenship last year, having been born and bred in South Africa. What’s in a name, eh?

Footballers are just so last season. Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane can’t score. The really good ones won’t come here – all we get is the crocks, the elderly, the bench-warmers, yet still we look to them to be our saviour. Oh my God, let’s hope we sign Falcao, he’s a genius, will make all the difference, so prayed all the Man United fans. Hold on: Chelsea fans. I’ve forgotten now where he went. They seek him here, they seek him there, is he alive or on the stairs, who feckin’ cares?

John Stones of Everton – brilliant season so far, now he is a genius, the solution to all of Chelsea’s problems, the heir to John Terry, captain of England for decades. Once he gets out of short trousers and learns to tie his own laces . . .

Managers are the real interest. So refreshing to have three young British managers in the Prem – Alex Neil at Norwich (34), Eddie Howe at Bournemouth (37) and that old hand at Swansea, Garry Monk, (36). Young Master Howe looks like a ball boy. Or a tea boy.

Mourinho is, of course, the main attraction. He has given us the best start to any of his seasons on this planet. Can you ever take your eyes off him? That handsome hooded look, that sarcastic sneer, the imperious hand in the air – and in his hair – all those languages, he’s so clearly brilliant, and yet, like many clever people, often lacking in common sense. How could he come down so heavily on Eva Carneiro, his Chelsea doctor? Just because you’re losing? Yes, José has been the best fun so far – plus Chelsea’s poor start. God, please don’t let him fall out with Abramovich. José, we need you.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Isis and the new barbarism