The young today have been betrayed by the older generations

Wednesday 7 February 2018, 7pm | Emmanuel Centre

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It was all so easy back then. The post-war generation of baby boomers enjoyed free university education, waltzed into a job and onto the property ladder, securing their old age with a gold-plated pension scheme. Then, having financed much of this bonanza with public borrowing, they stuck a boot into the faces of the generations behind them, voting for austerity, student fees, and now Brexit. And their impulse to leave the EU wasn’t based on well thought-out political or economic reasons. No, they simply wanted to give themselves the frisson of ’taking back control’, knowing full well that they won’t be around long enough to see the dire consequences of their decision. So where does this leave today’s millennials? Crippled by student debt, in an unpaid internship if they’re lucky, and with an ever diminishing prospect of buying a house (home ownership amongst millennials has halved in the last 25 years). The only consolation of the young is the occasional smashed avocado on toast and a Generation Easyjet weekend in Bratislava.

That’s the narrative of the boomer bashers – but is it a fair one? True, the older generations may have enjoyed the benefits of the post-war years. But can you really blame them for seizing the opportunities that were available at the time? No reasonable person would deny that the young are having it tough, but the causes have more to do with the aftermath of the 2008 crash and global economic trends than selfish wrinklies hogging all the pies. Income has stagnated for all but the super-rich over the last decade, while house prices have soared out of the reach of average earners, whatever their age. Scapegoating boomers and pensioners won’t solve the problems of the young – it will only breed more intergenerational grumblings and division. Older generations are constantly vilified for backing Brexit, but having lived under the yoke of the EU for more than 40 years they know a thing or two about what they were pulling out of. And the picture isn’t exactly rosy for the many old folk either. While the young fiddle with their smartphones in gourmet coffee shops, many elderly citizens struggle with loneliness and pensioner poverty.

Are the older generation a uniquely selfish bunch who have hoarded all the goodies for themselves? Or are they being unfairly blamed for tough social and economic circumstances that are affecting the old quite as much as the young? Join us on February 7th, hear the arguments and decide for yourself.

Speakers For the Motion

Georgia Gould

Young rising star in the Labour party, who was recently elected leader of Camden Council. A dedicated advocate for disenfranchised young people, she is the author of Wasted: How Misunderstanding Young Britain Threatens Our Future.

Jeremy Paxman

Award-winning journalist, author and television presenter, best known for presenting Newsnight and University Challenge over several decades. In the aftermath of the EU referendum he railed against baby boomers who had voted for Brexit, arguing in favour of curtailing the franchise and writing ‘it’s simply not fair to allow people to vote for a future they won’t live to enjoy or endure.’

Speakers Against the Motion

Esther Rantzen

Renowned broadcaster who presented the BBC show That’s Life for 21 years, regularly drawing audiences of over 18 million viewers. She was also the founder of ChildLine, the children’s helpline, and in 2012 founded The Silver Line, a helpline offering information, friendship and advice to vulnerable older people.

Ella Whelan

Assistant editor at the online magazine Spiked, who writes about feminism, free speech and the generational divide. A recent university graduate who voted Leave, she has written in defence of baby boomers and the elderly, arguing that ‘hating old people is the new socially acceptable prejudice’. She is the author of What Women Want: Fun, Freedom And An End to Feminism.

Chair to be announced.

Speakers subject to change.