There is a puzzling myth in politics, in Britain and elsewhere, that young people are often more left-wing than their parents. This is not true. Not for me, anyway. Where I was born and brought up, in Hong Kong, we are obsessed with free market capitalism – ‘no money no talk,’ as the saying goes. The government is proud of its ‘non-interventionist’ small state, and Li Ka-Shing, Hong Kong and Asia’s richest tycoon, remains a widely admired figure.
In Britain, I discovered socialism. When I studied A-level politics, my stomach churned at New Labour’s courting of the City. I hated their imitations of Thatcherism. I thought the BBC was right-wing and the Sun rigged elections. Tony Benn was my hero, Marx my teacher. Democratic ‘revolution’ was what I wanted. Alas, I even went to a Socialist Workers’ meeting and addressed everybody ‘brothers and sisters’!
But then I grew up. I learnt that your heart and your brain don’t always point the same way. In fact, they rarely do.
My passion for reducing poverty hasn’t reduced, but forcing your reluctant friends to drop a few quid at Oxfam won’t solve the issue. ‘Tax the rich!’ I used to cry; until I realised by ‘the rich’ we included teachers, police officers, NHS doctors and nurses. Before, I desired nationalisation; now I admire the creativity of entrepreneurship and hope for more investments in start-ups.
Most of my generation, Generation Y, is equally if not more individualistic, competition-driven, and suspicious of big government. Some go as far as branding us ‘Generation Right’.
I reject that label. There is nothing right-wing about the AirBnB bringing people closer together, Lyft relieving commuters from rocketing fares, or even Twitter turning everybody into potential citizen journalists.
As Hillary Clinton suggested (though clumsily communicated, perhaps), governments need to make sure regulation catch up with the shareconomy and other technological changes. As such, we can utilise collaborative methods and innovations in education, healthcare and other public services. It’s not so much Blairism but ‘Uberism’. But as the outside world revolts, the Labour Party is complacent that it stays the same. In fact, as activists queue up to endorse Jeremy Corbyn, it looks as if Labour is a parallel universe, regressing in time against the real world.
I can already hear the cries of ‘Red Tory,’ ‘Tory-lite,’ and ‘neoliberal’ from some who may read (even comment on) this article. You can shout all you like, but don’t try to turn the clock back on GenY. To quote a left-wing revolutionary, ‘You young people, full of vigor and vitality, are in the bloom of life… The world belongs to you.’
Caught in an ideological era, yesterday’s youth shook the Victorian establishment, brought about the sexual revolution and gifted us with an open society with black, white, Asian people and others living side by side. Engulfed in a technological revolution, tomorrow’s youth will restore our lost human connection, dismantled by centralised corporations and governments, continuing the social democratic tradition via social entrepreneurship.
So here’s a suggestion for Labour: Don’t be the opponent of that change, be the champion of GenY, and stand on the right side of history.