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February 20, 2010

Comments

charlieman

Ignorance of history could be useful to younger politicians. Rather than accepting conventional wisdom that Strategy A is always doomed, they might press ahead with it. Just because something failed in the past is not an excuse to discard it.

And if the young breed are smart enough to acknowledge their own ignorance, they'll listen to those with more understanding of what went wrong last time.

I don't expect it to happen, of course.

Tim Almond

Youth can be rebellious and fearless. It can also have nothing to lose. It's often far more likely to try new ideas rather than dismissing them.

The problem is that the result of 24 hour media, and the emphasis on consistent messages is that mavericks simply won't get far in parties now. They'll get screened out in favour of grey stormtroopers.

Pete

I think you could read each of those points the other way.

1) Deference towards expertise could mean that they listened to senior civil servants and interfered less.

2) Being energetic doesn't have to mean unfocused. They might just put more energy into the few things they did prioritise.

3) If leaders are also younger, and thus subject to the same disadvantages, wouldn't this compensate for the weakness of potential challengers?

Ken

There's also benefits to having a wider representation in Parliament more generally, too, surely? For example, issues that come up today are things like first-time home buyers, how to fix the education system, how to solve the problems of youth unemployment. The perspective of young people would bring something valuable to bear on these issues.

Alex

Surely we want more deference to experts? Almost across the board, politicians ignore the evidence. For instance, David Nutt, crime statistics, trafficking etc etc. We urgently need evidence-based policy making, not policy-based evidence-making as we've had up till now.

Also, average age of 51 doesn't sound that bad. How does that compare to the average adult Briton for instance?

And have you actually looked around at Parliament? Have you seen how grey the House of Lords is?

Considering that most people are aged between 20 and 50, why is David Cameron being 43 so bad?

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?ID=6

Do you really think it is their (relative) youth that makes politicians like Purnell or Cameron be enthusiastic for dodgy ideas? Surely it could be that they're politicians trying to win votes, and so will propose things that sound good to the public. Or it could be that their political philosophy is bankrupt: is his (relative) youth really Cameron's biggest problem?

Moreover, you conflate two things in this piece. You talk about "Young people", when what you really mean is "Younger people than before". Average of 51 is not what I'd call "young".

Further, you talk in very broad strokes here. Just because some (perhaps a majority, though as those above, I very much doubt your claims about younger people) younger people are inexperienced, does not mean we should start being ageist and looking at individuals based on their "group" characteristics. Would you introduce ethnic profiling at airports?

Finally, I think it should be stated that, following Kuhn, scientific revolutions do tend to come more from the young. If I wanted to make sweeping generalizations, I could say that older people are set in their ways.

chris

Alex - the problem in the Nutt case wasn't that the government was insufficiently deferential to experts, but that it was insufficiently deferential to the evidence.
And you raise an tricky question: do we want politicians to be representative of us, in the sense of having similar age (or gender or ethnic or class) profiles to us? It's not clear why we should.

charlieman

@Alex: "And have you actually looked around at Parliament? Have you seen how grey the House of Lords is?"

The House of Lords is composed of individuals who have attained position by a variety of routes under a variety of laws. The routes have favoured grey haired people, but political parties have also nominated younger people to the Lords. Those appointees tend to be professional Lords and thus reduce the greyness of debates. I am not arguing that we should be satisfied about the composition, more that we should be thoughtful about how we replace it.

The USA has minimum age requirements for candidacy to elected government posts. I can't find a reliable definition on age requirements for appointees. So a 24 year old could become a cabinet office holder but would be barred from an elected national position?

Alex

"Alex - the problem in the Nutt case wasn't that the government was insufficiently deferential to experts, but that it was insufficiently deferential to the evidence."

But a politician generally won't know what the evidence on a subject is (unless they did that subject before going into politics).

"And you raise an tricky question: do we want politicians to be representative of us, in the sense of having similar age (or gender or ethnic or class) profiles to us? It's not clear why we should."

I agree, but the converse does not follow. It may not necessarily be a good thing to have a Parliament that is just a smaller version of the larger society, but that does not mean it is a bad thing.

The best politicians for the job should be regardless of age, sex, race, class etc. Which was my point.

Alex

Whoops, I meant to say on the first bit:

But a politician generally won't know what the evidence on a subject is (unless they did that subject before going into politics). So they need to consult the experts.

Big Fez

Another negative consequence of younger politicians is their need for a career after politics. This renders them more susceptible to lobbying from big business than a 60-something happy to retire on a (generous) public pension.

Even as someone still in his twenties (albeit only just) I do worry that we, as a society, seem to have very little appreciation for the value of experience these days. See Also: Menzies Campbell

ajay

The evidence doesn't seem to support your worry: you raise the prospect of politics become a young person's game, etc, and then admit that actually Cameron's cabinet will be 51 on average (which is not young) and that's only three years younger than Cabinets were thirty years ago.
Where's the problem?

Will a 51-year-old minister really be that different, psychologically, from a 54-year-old?

Are MPs on average younger than they used to be? Not really. The average is about 50, as it has been at every election for the last two decades.
http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/notes/snSG-01528.pdf

Do they lack experience of life? Does spending two years of your life in a barracks being told when to change your shirt really represent "valuable life experience" in a way that living the much more independent life of a university student does not?

Do we want energy and intellectual curiosity? Put it this way: Clinton or Bush?

دار التميمي حمد

Do they lack experience of life? Does spending two years of your life in a barracks being told when to change your shirt really represent "valuable life experience" in a way that living the much more independent life of a university student does not?

منتديات

Do they lack experience of life? Does spending two years of your life in a barracks being told when to change your shirt really represent "valuable life experience" in a way that living the much more independent life of a university student does not?

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