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Letter of the week: Intellectual stimulants

Write to letters@newstatesman.co.uk to have your thoughts voiced in the New Statesman magazine.

By New Statesman

The New Statesman and Andrew Marr have finally seen the elephant in the room (Politics, 2 June). What happens to the growing cohort of millennials and Gen Zs who are highly educated but capital poor? Well, instead of sex and drugs and rock and roll, which are expensive, they have switched to intellectual stimulants such as Christopher Hitchens, Jordan Peterson, Abigail Thorn and Ash Sarkar, to name but a few. The richness of consumerism has given way to the richness of the mind.

This in turn has produced a large group open to the more taboo ideas on both the left and the right. The centre ground for those under 40 is a dead zone. There are no social influencers arguing for a slight tweak in taxation or a little nudge on welfare reform. Big ideas attract this cohort.
James Martin, Southend-on-Sea, Essex

The age of Mavis

Andrew Marr (Politics, 2 June) overestimates universities’ role in creating “Mavis” (middle-aged, volatile, insurgent voters). Reports of “50 per cent going to university” misrepresent a complicated official statistical measurement, which includes many further education college students, plus a guess at how many adults might later go into higher education. Rather, it is the contraction of the working classes, their institutions and traditional politics (which Marr identifies) that has left space for other sources of inequality – not least race, gender and sexuality – to be recognised. The resulting identity politics leads to rivalries, which weaken progressive electoral effectiveness.
Professor Geoff Payne, Newcastle upon Tyne

A possible rephrasing of Mavis is PIM: progressive insecure maverick. The progressive voter advocates for social equality and justice, and may support environmental sustainability, welfare and inclusivity. The insecure voter may feel economically vulnerable or socially marginalised. And the maverick voter is independent-minded and willing to challenge established norms, party lines and conventional wisdom.
Michael Carstens Lim, London NW3

“Busters” (as opposed to “Boomers”) seems a good name for the Mavis generation. As I approach 30, it is interesting to speculate further how this generation of 35- to 55-year-olds may find political affinity with the cohort below it. Like the Busters, we have failed to obtain the same standard of living as our parents: my generation has only known economic bust. From a metaphorical point of view, the term “Buster” may also have a second meaning in that it is this generation that will, I hope, bust Conservative hegemony.
Rory Puxley, London N1

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THANK YOU

As Andrew Marr implied, “Mavis” isn’t quite right. How about the gender-neutral “Malbecs” – middle-aged liberals berating expiring conservatism”?
Colin Richards, Spark Bridge, Cumbria

I’m not sure that the group of voters that Andrew Marr describes actually exists, but as he has asked for an alternative label, can I suggest the fickletariat?
Dave Beer, professor of sociology, University of York

In response to Andrew Marr’s request for a name for his Mavis demographic, how about the “Uvent-ers”? Undervalued, vocal, enlightened, never-Tories ? Or,

“Rolos”: Revolution-ready, older, left-leaning and overlooked?
Sean Macreavy, Alcester, Warwickshire

Credit trap

Armando Iannucci’s otherwise excellent article (Another Voice, 2 June) fell into the Tories’ trap of giving them credit for the law on gay marriage. The Lib Dem Lynne Featherstone was the architect of the legislation and drove it through with Labour support, after most of the Tories voted against it. David Cameron did allocate crucial parliamentary time but the credit should go to the Lib Dems.
Mark Petterson, Shenington, Oxfordshire

Remedy for the NHS

Your letter of the week, “The health challenge”, by Professor Priscilla Alderson (Correspondence, 2 June), could not be more exact. It should be required reading for every person in or even associated with the Labour Party, from Keir Starmer downwards. And certainly anyone even dreaming of voting Labour in the coming general election as a reminder of what needs to be done, and done now.
Philip Jordan, Bromley, Kent

Poet’s corner

As an Essex boy, I have to correct Andrew Motion’s review of The Invention of Essex (2 June). Edward Thomas did spend time at Hare Hall Camp, along with Wilfred Owen and other members of the Artists Rifles, but it was at Gidea Park, not Epping, and was in the principal building of my old school, the Royal Liberty.
Tim Mills, London N5

Prize lottery

As a former client of the late, great agent Giles Gordon, I read Dotti Irving’s Diary (2 June) with wry amusement. As she says, “glittering prizes are by definition a good thing” – for the handful who win this lottery. But those of us who do not, often feel crushed by this system. We may, in my own case, be compared to Dickens, Trollope and other great novelists, but we still earn an average of £7,500 a year because of not winning or being shortlisted for any prize.

I am often asked by readers who have discovered my work why they haven’t heard of me before. I don’t blame them, because readers have only so much time and money. However, they should be aware that many prizes do not reflect more than the current fashion, and the tastes of judges who are celebrities rather than serious readers.
Amanda Craig, London NW19

To a wit

We gave my dad, Daniel, a subscription for his birthday. I won’t “out” him politically but as a man of wit there will be lots of common ground. Hi Dad! Tell us what you think!
Lizzie Pittwright, Glastonbury

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This article appears in the 07 Jun 2023 issue of the New Statesman, The Reeves Doctrine