There are many reasons to look back on the period between 1997 and 2010 with regret. Blair promised “Cool Britannia” but gave us the laughable claim to end “Boom and Bust”, the death of David Kelly, the war in Iraq, the Bank or rather debt crisis, wasteful Millennium projects, sucking up to US neo-Cons and the nonsense of Post neoclassical endogenous growth theory. All were and some still are calamitous policies that have weakened and indebted Britain and the British worker because we were persuaded Blair knew best. British history is confirming Blair knew how to look after himself best at the expense of Britain as a nation no more and no less.
There is one issue which is only now beginning to emerge as a “crisis” and that is the mental health of the young. Again the “left” are banging on about resourcing when the problem is with the usual time delay for cause and effect squarely down to the period from 1997 onwards. The Tories can’t struggle off the leash entirely but the policies that affect the young are essentially Blair’s.
In 1997 and leading up to the hubris of the millennium young people were seen as the saviours of Britain. Young people were to be “invested” in and schools would deliver bright millennials who would deliver the “cool Britannia” success promoted by Blair. At that point, the “Cool Britannia” brigade were not millennials but Thatcher’s Children or even pre Thatcher, Pop idols and TV people in their 20’s and 30’s. Still, they could be “culturally appropriated” by Blair and of course they were.
The real millennials were fed a diet of New Labour Hubris, had to endure an education system which took away the competition and promoted an unrealistic sense of equality by “coursework assessments”. Grade inflation was the means of persuading parents that children were getting brighter and that a university education would transform working-class lives for young people. There was also a “gifted and talented” programme for anyone who could hold a pencil the right way up. Money was given to students in tertiary education, most of it went on drugs and booze. These were woolly and naive aspirations with “shonky” mechanics underpinning the social engineering.
However what has created the current Mental Health crisis amongst the young isn’t just the woolly New Labour thinking of their early childhoods or its less deranged but not yet wholly abolished form, today. It is the social and economic context within which all this naive social engineering was and still is operating. Add in the breakdown of all too many families, and the stress of single parenthood and you have just about the worst context within which to lack wealth, have debt and possess a second-rate degree.
The outcome of the whole lot; social engineering, educational tinkering and context, from 1997 to the present day has in too many instances resulted in more crime from the unemployed second generation ex-industrial and agricultural workers; and rising levels of mental health problems for the employed working and middle classes. So how do we analyse the problem at Blue Revolution? And what would we do to put it right?
Firstly the workplace was described as a place of opportunity for the new graduates. How many proud parents from derailed working class communities believed that a student loan was money well borrowed. Whilst their proper working class jobs might have been rendered uneconomic by the standards of the global labour market, their kids with degrees would be able to cut it with the worlds best. Or perhaps not. The market for degrees is unlike the state education system, overall fiercely meritocratic. Having borrowed to get their degree the youths returned to their working-class communities to the sort of work they were doing before they left. The additional problem for many was that unskilled migrants had taken up much of the “work offer” limiting opportunities whilst driving the wage level down to the minimum wage. (NB the minimum wage was needed by New Labour because without it mass immigration would have resulted in starvation wages for working people). The minimum wage has become the maximum wage for too many young people.
So that’s the impact of the unplanned for globalisation of labour, student loans and too few good jobs for the thousands of graduates the system churned out, immigration and the minimum wage. If that were not enough, what else has contributed towards the mental health problems of the young?
Well, “economic reality” affects the poorer young more than say someone like Euan Blair. Most of the graduates from the run of the mill Uni’s know they have been ripped off to help keep a supplicant socialist industry funded. Higher education (like most of the education sector) is the “intellectual” wing of the Labour Party and so who cares if a few poorer kids get into debt to fund this important left-wing leaning national industry.
So with all the disadvantages of competing at the bottom end of society, with debt and diminishing opportunities in their own communities, the poorer student has to stand back and watch as the sons and daughters of the elite, more often than not a taxpayer-funded elite, hoover up the few decent jobs that there are in what apart from “the City” remains the lucrative part of the labour market, the top ranks of politics and the public sector.
The students from poorer backgrounds have the same expectations as the Blairs. Blair was great at selling a dream. Unfortunately, it was a dream few could achieve. So the final insult to the poorer young and students is that they are given a sense of personal failure. This isn’t delivered in the usual way by pushy parents. Modern poorer parents are genuinely sad about their children’s limited opportunities with debt and worthless degrees, and sad about their own gullibility at believing the worthless Blair mantra “education, education, education”. So the expectation that creates the sense of personal failure is the hubris of new labour and it’s belief that supporting a client “industry” like education with student debt was a way of killing two birds with one stone and delivering “Cool Britannia” and making most of Britain’s young globally competitive.
Unfortunately, we can see now that with weak economic fundamentals this hubris is causing depression, feelings of hopelessness and catastrophe. This is however only amongst poorer kids with their debt, worthless degrees, no home too “own” and the prospect of losing what little inheritance they might get as the state, supporting another “industry”, cares for their ageing unemployed parents.
On a positive note, at least we can see the state sorting out the problem by piling money into “Mental Health”. Perhaps however if the present “state” were to shrink and let people run the country with some semblance of a constitutional monarchy we wouldn’t need a Mental health “industry” at all. Just a thought.