The young are right to be anti-party, when the parties in question are private political clubs, that is. In Europe the voices of the angered young are louder, as the Guardian comments today, but the antagonism of the young towards the political class is none the less in the UK. The gagging stench of cronyism and corruption, privilege and nepotism, avarice and self-seeking hangs heavy over our political parties. They have become remote metropolitan elites, bereft of local grass-roots membership and support and therefore utterly alien to a generation that has never known the old Conservative Associations of the '70s, the Liberal Clubs and Labour Federations.
In place of members, the parties have become national brands, and rely increasingly on marketing and brand identity. Cameron's Coke against Miliband's Pepsi. But as brand marketers have long known, the rules are different for the young. Political attempts to 'get down wiv der yoof' are risibly transparent to young people, and make the party head office marketers into figures of derision. Particularly when viral youth wisdom holds the entire political class responsible for their debt and joblessness, and for all the broken promises.
And so to Sir Christopher Kelly's Committee on Standards in Public Life. Last year they started an inquiry into party funding, with an intention to publish their report in 'early 2011'. Time passed. By the end of 2010 the Committee had concluded all its evidence-taking and public consultation. Then the publication date slipped to 'Spring 2011'. Then to 'Late Spring 2011'. Then came the May elections and the purdah period and now the Committee only says it will publish 'later this year'.
What's going on? Well, the Committee is going through the unadvertised stage that follows the public enquiry and gathering of hundreds of thousands of words of evidence, the stage called 'behind closed doors political horse-trading' in which all the evidence is ignored whilst they hammer out a conclusion palatable to all three big parties. The Lib Dems, with far fewer than their (2009) 60,000 members nationally, are as bankrupt as Greece and are desperate for our tax money to fund them. They won't support a report that says 'No' to tax funding for the three big parties based on their last vote share. Labour are now wholly reliant on the Unions for funds, and won't sign up to a £50k cap on donations that includes the Unions. The views of the public, and of all those who took the trouble to contribute to the enquiry, count for nothing. This matter will be decided by the party HQs and the political class. To their own advantage.
The wisdom of the young in their anti-party stance should touch us all.