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Being young is not ‘very heaven’

Andrea Leadsoms comments on parenthood did not seem to help her campaign to be PM - or go down well with Helen, either.
Andrea Leadsoms comments on parenthood did not seem to help her campaign to be PM - or go down well with Helen, either.

I don’t go a lot for romantic poets. I’m more a Philip Larkin woman, being somewhat grumpy and cynical by nature. You might have noticed.

I can’t be doing with all that Byronic stuff about going no more a-roving so late into the night or Keats rabbiting on about truth being beauty and beauty, truth and that’s all we need to know.

That’s all HE knew, I’m telling you.

If he were the poet laureate today he’d be packing up his quill pens and persisting off down the Job Centre looking for shelves to stack and zero-hours contracts to aspire to. What’s a Grecian urn? About as much as Angela Merkel allows him to.

And poor Wordsworth, with his wonderful host of golden daffodils and turgid celebration of the spirit of his age.

“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive and to be young was very heaven”, he said, rhapsodising about the potential knock-on effects of the French Revolution and the heady idea that freedom might yet seep into the everyday life of the people across the Channel. Aye, right.

And what are those words worth today? If I was a young person now (and I was one once, voting for things like joining the Common Market in 1975 – my first vote, I was 18), I’d be hopping mad.

No advantages

It must seem as if the future is still going to be dictated by people who have had all the advantages the young now don’t have – and haven’t a hope of ever getting

As a baby boomer of a kind – being born a dozen years after the war does kind of qualify me for that dubious status – I feel I ought to get a T-shirt printed with a Lord Kitchener-type figure on it, pointing the finger of scorn at the onlooker as he declaims: “I’m old but I voted for what YOU voted for!”

I have no pretensions to be down with the youth or up with it or whatever the prevailing terminology is but I can see that many young people today have it a lot more difficult than I did and up until now, have been expected to suck it up.

Resignation is not something, however, that everyone can achieve – apart from many of the upper echelons of the Westminster political classes, who have got it down to a fine art.

Keep calm and carry on never had a greater resonance, even if you feel the carrying on in question has more in common with slapstick movies of the 1960s and 70s than with anything approximating to real life.

If Theresa May really means what she said on the steps of Downing Street on Wednesday this week, then maybe, for once, the younger generation might get an even break out of her administration.

But I won’t hang by the neck waiting for it and I suspect, neither will many of my young compatriots. At least 16 and 17-year-olds in Scotland got the vote during the 2014 independence referendum and covered themselves in glory by the standard of their debate and understanding of the issues.

This time round, the youth of Britain didn’t get that chance – and the breakdown of which age group voted for which result over the Brexit question is surely one of the most divisive things to come out of the whole sorry charade.

Yet there’s been a lot of loose talk about how much the young matter.

Well, of course they do but you’d have a hard time telling that from a lot of the policies and attitudes emanating from the bowels of government over the last few years.

Andrea Leadsom, of course, put her foot in it grand style when she claimed to have a greater stake in the future of this country than her child-free rival, thus insinuating that being a parent gives someone aspiring to high office in public service some kind of in-built advantage.

As if caring about the bigger picture and ALL of the next generation wasn’t something anyone with a modicum of intelligence and self-awareness could possess and employ to good and positive effect without the benefit of personal reproduction.

No qualification

I’m not a parent myself, so I can’t say what being one brings to the table but while it’s obviously nice, lovely, fulfilling, frustrating and may even be admirable, it’s not actually a qualification for anything other than being a parent.

Of course, there comes a time when people have to stop blaming their parents (and by extension, the people their parents voted for) for what’s gone wrong.

This isn’t the first time half of the British electorate has had to lie in the political bed of someone else’s making and it probably won’t be the last.

But for our young people’s sake – and all of ours – I hope for once that a contemporary political leader has got hold of the right end of the stick rather than using it to beat the next generation about the head.

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