The London Riots: Revaluating the Jilted Generation There has been much conjecture regarding the mindset of the London rioters. People have argued that multiculturalism is to blame, others that a rampant sense of consumerist materialism is at fault. The issue has also been used as a political tool, with individual policies such as the scrapping of EMA’s and cuts to youth services used to justify the spiralling violence. It has also been framed within other issues, with the rioters looting behaviour compared to that of bankers in the run up to the 2008 crisis. However, neither of these accounts are; by themselves, sufficient to explain the riots, and the reality is more likely a mesh of contributing factors. Instead these narratives help simplify the issue, allowing us to make the debate accessible and instantly understandable, but attributing the riots to nihilistic notions of simple criminality is as dangerous as the riots themselves. If there are no social or political causes to the riots, then how can we hope to avoid similar events from occurring? With this in mind, I couldn’t help but revisit a book by Ed Howker and Shiv Malik, called Jilted Generation. The book focuses on four main issues; jobs, housing, inheritance and politics, and there is no fence sitting by the authors, whose prose are passionate and charged with frustration at the way society has changed over the last few decades. The ‘jilted generation’ refers to anyone born in and after September 1979. According to the authors, this group were the first to pay tuition fees, they started their university careers in the very year that property prices skyrocketed, and have joined the job market following the worst recession in decades. They expressively note that this generation have not been treated very well, and cite the individualism espoused by the Thatcher era, and continued by Blair in the late 1990’s as the main reason for their predicament. It makes a depressing read, and despite the vitriolic tone set by the authors, the evidence they present makes a hugely compelling argument. So how does this fit in with the London riots? If we are to believe the book, the problem cannot be blamed on the recession or single policies (including the scrapping of EMA’s, and the increase in tuition fees), but as a result of a societal imbalance that overwhelmingly burdens the younger, ‘jilted generation’. The book argues that in terms of housing, younger people are struggling to be part of the “property owning democracy”, a promise on which Thatcher’s electoral success was built. This saw council house sales to large swathes of the country at subsidised rates, but as housing stocks were not replenished, it can never be done again. In 2010, those aged between 25 and 34 represented only 27% of all home owners, compared to 43% in 1990. This group are now reliant on the badly regulated rental market, and in terms of the “property owning democracy”, rental tenants are argued to represent second class citizens. A similar pattern emerges when they discuss the jobs market, with youth unemployment at its highest rates in modern British history, with one in five people aged 18-24, and a staggering one in three 16-17 year olds being unemployed. According to the book, the social repercussions of this are huge, effecting everything from the country’s birth rate (as people regard getting on the housing ladder above having children), to the generations “postponement of adulthood”, as they are disproportionately reliant on their parents compared to older generations. The ‘jilted generation’ are therefore argued to be infantilised, marginalised, and ultimately stigmatised. This book addresses some important issues, especially
read within the backdrop of the London riots. Although it cannot help us understand the reasons why the riots occurred, it does however offer valuable insight into the pressures and strains associated with the generation in question.
Guardian article: Proposal echoes Labour scheme that was scrapped in 2009 over concerns it would breach civil liberties