English footballers speak for the new generation better than any politician | Owen Jones


Instead of a trophy, the England national team inherited something far more precious: the coat of the official opposition.

For most of the country’s under-40s – the generations known as millennials and zoomers – Tory Britain represents a double-edged attack on their economic security and deeply held social values. When Marcus Rashford – a “23-year-old black man from Withington and Wythenshawe”, in his own words – shamed the government for feeding hundreds of thousands of children, he was leading a rebellion on behalf of this most destitute demographic. voice, the young the working class. Since 2010, when the Conservatives came to power with the help of the Liberal Democrats, 800,000 children in active households have been reduced below the poverty line; However, momentarily, they received one of the loudest megaphones in the country. When the England team knelt down, they affirmed the value of black life in a nation whose government has cynically stoked racism for electoral purposes, up to and including building an environment hostile that expelled the British Windrush generation from their own country.

Boris Johnson and his cronies refused to condemn their own national team’s boos for a very simple reason – they knew those barking ghouls were a crucial pillar of their support base that they didn’t want to alienate. When Conservative ministers then had the brow of condemning the racism directed at England players, which they helped legitimize, it fell on the England center-back Tyrone ming to emphasize the hypocrisy. “You can’t stoke the fire at the start of the tournament by calling our anti-racist message ‘gestural politics’,” he tweeted, “and then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we are campaigning against happens.”

That this is the most virulent England national team is no strange accident. Hailing from all over the country – from South Manchester to Bath to Neasden – they are undeniable products of their generation. Young people have been revolting for some time against a former Westminster regime rigged against their standard of living and their progressive values; and as empty as these players’ bank accounts are, they cannot escape where they came from.

I know that talking about the youth revolt can trigger a weary eye roll, “heard it all before,” followed by cliché references to how young people inevitably become conservative as they get older. Yet this young revolt is New. Our understanding of the politics of the 1960s is skewed by the revolts on American college campuses: Young Americans were more likely to support the Vietnam War and the segregationist candidate George Wallace than their elders. In Great Britain, the historian Dominique sandbrook pointed out that only one in ten young Britons attended university in the 1960s, and student surveys tended to show little sympathy for the left. The anti-Vietnam War demonstration in Grosvenor Square in 1968 became a protest legend, but there were only 10,000, including my late father.

When Margaret Thatcher attacked the post-war Social Democratic settlement, she did so with the active support of most the young, which rewarded her with a decisive advance in 1983: her populist – but not fulfilled – promise that rolling back the state would free the individual took hold of the times. Some of these young Thatcherites of the day would later be satisfied with New Labor’s accommodation with the free market economy, but many in their older years have come back firmly to the Conservatives’ fold.

As research by the right-wing think tank, underlines the Institute of Economic Affairs, young Britons today have clearly moved to the left. Two-thirds would prefer to live in a socialist economic system, 72% support public ownership of industry and large majorities blame capitalism for the climate emergency and the housing crisis. The authors of the report were particularly troubled by the persistence of these beliefs: “It is no longer true that people ‘grow’ socialist ideas as they age.

The progressive social values ​​of young people have undoubtedly been forged by the accumulation of successful struggles for the rights of minorities and women over many decades. These perspectives are anchored in popular culture, reflected by the main cultural influencers, strengthening their hegemony among the younger generations. Mass mobilizations for movements ranging from Black Lives Matter to Extinction Rebellion – both on the streets and online – are further spreading these ideas. Young people are also a diverse cohort: in 2015, one in three English primary schoolchildren belonged to an ethnic minority. While, for example, UK newspapers shine a light on the moral panic against trans people, young people – and especially young women – Support this deeply marginalized minority in ever greater numbers.

These values ​​merged with deep economic insecurities: these generations have known nothing but jagged youth services, a shaken welfare state, student debt, a devouring housing crisis, often precarious and poorly paid work, and stagnant or declining wages. These are not the consequences of conservative sadism: they are simply the logical endpoint of the government supporting a former coalition of socially conservative voters by driving up house prices, keeping their tax burden low, and exploiting their most reactionary impulses. . For now, it is working: These loyal Blue voters have made it clear that they will stay loyal to Johnson’s Tories. In the meantime, the Labor Party has given up the most basic functions of the opposition.

But fury is brewing among the country’s younger generations, and it will erupt to the surface in a variety of ways – from protests to viral tweets from football players. Someday they might not only seek revenge, but deliver her.



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