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The bikes of self-reliance.

WHEN TEBBIT MADE  his infamous “get on your bike” speech I was a Labour voter. As such I was automatically appalled by his comments. I shouldn’t have been, but when you’re in that mindset you tend to absolve yourself from logical thought.

This was the era of Auf Wiedersehn, Pet, when many British workers decamped to the continent for jobs and others found themselves working away from home at far ends of the UK. I remember being on a coach from London and Newcastle and listening to the banter between two London girls (Rose and Camilla, where are you now?) and a bunch of Geordies who were returning home from the south-east. These guys were regularly away from home for weeks at a time. What was important for them was to work, to earn money to look after themselves and their families. What they didn’t want was to be stuck in the benefit trap, dependent on the state. Rose and Camilla were amazed: they had no idea that jobs were so scarce up north.

I was more miffed at that north-south divide than the economic arguments, because, even though I was a socialist, I was behaving like a Tebbitite myself and spent a decade getting on the proverbial bike and going where I could find work. The good Lord Norman would have been proud of me.

That attitude, however, of not sitting on your arse expecting the state to pay for you or even set you up with a job, is infra dig with the current crop of socialist luvvies. That’s why they’re upset at the results of a recent IPSOS MORI poll which show that a good percentage of “Generation Y” (the under-24s) have the same bootstrap attitude and reject the idea that the state should be spending more on welfare. As Paul Mason of the BBC says, “the survival strategy of the young seems to be – work at all costs, for low wages or even at no wages”. Said with a disparaging air, of course.

And that air of disparagement is shared with luminaries such as Laurie Penny, who would prefer youngsters to waste away on the dole…

…rather than show initiative and self-reliance. In her view young people have been duped by three years’ of Tory PR demonising the poor. That not only overestimates the ability of the Conservatives to run anything successfully, but also assumes that young people a) read newspapers and b) watch the news. My experience of students is that they do neither. It also assumes they’re too thick to work out what’s going on.

Like Penny, John Harris, writing in the Guardian, blames this calamitous outbreak of self-reliance on, yes, you’ve guessed it, Thatcher. Generation Y, he says, “have grown up in a country in which postwar collectivism is increasingly but a distant memory, and the free-market worldview handed on from Thatcher…is seemingly as ordinary and immovable as the weather.” As I’ve said before, no one is more stuck in the past than a progressive, particularly when it comes to clinging to this myth of collective solidarity that supposedly gripped postwar Britain. Unlike both Penny and Harris, I grew up in that era and can assure them (and that other tiresome journo, Owen Jones) that collectivist consensus or not, sitting out hard times on benefits was not socially acceptable.

Jones, Penny, Mason, Harris and others may find the get-up-and-go attitude of young people lamentable. I think it’s admirable and bet everyone else does as well. I’m always impressed by the students I deal with; they all seem to have jobs and they never complain about it. They just get on with things. It’s also proof that to a large extent they are immune to the the propagandising of the progressives from their high ground in academia, the media and politics. That’s terrifying for the left but heartening for the rest of us.

We should all be grateful so many of our young people exhibit the virtues of self-reliance and individualism. It’s better than being the pathetic parasites our media progressives would prefer them to be. Long may they get on their bikes.

Michael Blackburn.

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