Here's the line up of current and potential party leaders, at time of writing
David Cameron (born 1966)
Nick Clegg (born 1967)
David Miliband (born 1965)
Ed Miliband (born 1969)
Ed Balls (born 1967)
John McDonnell (born 1951)
as yet undeclared Andy Burnham (born 1970) (Update: now declared)
Update: Diane Abbott (born 1953) has entered the fray in a welcome burst of diversity. Actually, not that diverse - she's Oxbridge too. What are the chances that Michael Portillo is one of the 10,000+ new Labour members and planning to stand as well?
With two exceptions, Generation X have well and truly taken over. The original writeup of Generation X was a bunch of nihilists, destined to live forever off the scraps their baby boomer parents had left them - McJobs, shopping, marketing, and the absence of any kind of big idea or cause to fight for. Sounds fine if you're 22 and trying to work off your student debt in the early 90's, not quite so clear if you're 43 and Prime Minister in 2010.
So if Generation X is supplanting the baby boomers, what is my generation like? Beyond a taste (not universally shared) for stadium rock, curry, irony and Have I Got News for You, is there anything else? I found this piece by Patrick Neate very interesting, an attempt to redefine Generation X based on the following characteristics:
- Magpie Tendencies, cherry picking from all sorts of sources, eclectic.
- Enterprising "Faced with new and difficult career circumstances but armed with new and difficult tools, we adapted"
- Instinctive Relativists: "We didn't believe in global communism, but that doesn't make us advocates of global capitalism. We may not believe in God or institutions but that's missing the point; because we don't believe in the absence of God or institutions either. We don't even believe in immutable knowledge. We prefer Wikipedia - a limitless, editable source that's as fallible as its contributors"
- Natural Pluralists - "it's simply not true that we don't believe in right and wrong; rather that we're often not sure what they are. We are governed by uncertainty and, admittedly, this is a dangerous position. But, in the contemporary world, it's still better than many. As a general principle, it must be worse to think you're right and be wrong (ask Tony "Boomer" Blair) than to admit that you're just not sure"
- Mod Cons (moderate conservatives)
- Comfort Junkies "Our Mod Con tendencies will never get in the way of our mod cons and our pluralism will never outgun our desire for comfort. It is the one thing about which we're never relative. And this scares even me."
he concludes (note - this was written a couple of years ago. It also reflects a thoroughly middle class flavour to Gen X, maybe cultural analysts are only bothered about people in their own social grade):
"As Generation X reaches middle age and inevitably takes charge, it's possible to envisage dithering direction guided only by the side its bread (wholemeal, stone ground, from the deli) is buttered (spreadable, Danish, unsalted). But it's also possible to imagine humane and pragmatic leadership that's adaptable to the new challenges it will undoubtedly confront. I would finally suggest that the way this particular cookie will crumble comes down less to the characteristics of the generation than the generation's recognition of the two prime characteristics of its era: unprecedented prosperity and (at least local) peace. We have been very, very lucky."
I recognise a lot of this, though some of it overlaps with Generation Y - todays 20-somethings are much more natural pluralists than the 40-somethings. But it's been a while since I heard/read a decent analysis of the post-boomer generation, and now they/we are in charge, perhaps it's time to find out a bit more. Anyone got any good thoughts/links?
DK (born 1969)