Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Backing Britain

Has a very interesting day on Tuesday, with two Labour big guns in town, Liam Byrne and Jim Knight, as part of the Building Britain's Future roadshow, (here's the local coverage).

Was great to spend an afternoon talking about the positive things the Government is doing - and there is so much going on, it's frustrating that people don't realise what's being done to ensure we get out of this recession in as good a shape as possible, and that the only way we will be able to deal with the debt (which yes, is high but not as high as in many of our competitor countries) is if we secure future economic growth. We can't cut our way out of recession. It would have a devastasting impact on our competitiveness.

The thing about Jim and Liam and I is that we're all of a roughly similar age - although I confess to a brief moment of 'oh my God I'm really old' when Liam mentioned he was born in 1970. We are the Thatcher generation. (And it's worth noting that Cameron and Osborne and Hague and Gove and the rest are of the same age too, and they chose to become Tories at a time when Thatcherism was at its most brutal).

We might have been lucky enough to be in the small percentage of kids who went to university, but we all know people our age who spent years and years on the dole throughout the 1980s, who thought they would never work. In some it sparked creativity - most of my friends were musicians, and we all hung around the local arts centre, (not a municipal type affair, but an old warehouse which was barely one step up from a squat). But there was a real anger, a real desperation. It wasn't unusual to read stories in the papers about young men committing suicide because they simply couldn't see any reason for living; they felt they had no future. Liam went to what he now describes as a 'not very good' state school in Harlow. I went to a similar school in Luton. Jim Murphy would have seen the same, with his contemporaries in Glasgow. Andy Burnham in Leigh, Sion Simon and Tom Watson in the West Midlands. There are a lot of us now in Parliament.

And it's because of this that the Government is so intent on focusing its efforts on young people in this recession. It's vital that young people don't feel written off, that they retain their hope and optimism and aspirations, and that we do all we can to nurture them - which is why the Backing Young Britain campaign is so important, and it's why Jim and Liam could speak with such genuine passion at the event in Bristol this week.

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