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Relax everyone, the intergenerational wars are over

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Ever since David – now Lord – Willetts published what was hailed as his groundbreaking book, The Pinch, the idea that this country was facing, if not already engaged in, a war between the generations has been a set piece of economic and political discussion. His subtitle said it all: “How the baby boomers took their children’s future – and why they should give it back.’’

Over the best part of a decade, Willetts’ premise has grown from a debating topic into a fashionable given. Woe betide anyone who challenged it. We were privileged and self-serving “oldies” – or (for the not-quite so “oldies” among us) a fifth column of apologists operating on behalf of the superannuated “haves” against the youthful “have-nots”.

“We” were depicted as being in perpetual transit between our enormous mortgage-free houses and our latest world cruise, while “they” were stuck in extortionately expensive garrets, unable, despite their best efforts, to rub two ha’pence together, let alone “get on the housing ladder” before later middle-age.

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The appeal of Willetts’ argument was partly that, as a respected former universities minister (and now Conservative peer), he seemed eminently qualified to make the argument he did. It was also because he was taking a position that seemed surprising for a Tory, especially a Tory of a certain age, even if it chimed with the One Nation strand of Conservatism.

His thesis also tapped into the pervasive pessimism post-financial crisis that had already been given a generational spin by two young journalists, Ed Howker and Shiv Malik, whose book Jilted Generation came with its own self-explanatory subtitle: “How Britain has bankrupted its youth”.

Coming up to 10 years on, and with Lord........

© Independent