Cameron’s family relaunch at odds with new research showing sharp rise in anxieties about kids’ future prospects

14th May, 2012 6:17 pm

David Cameron, like Tony Blair before him, was initially successful in positioning himself as what voters described as a ‘family man’. Despite his privileged education and background, this was a point of connection with middle England. Like them, he cared about his kids. Like them, he put their future first.

I remember conducting discussion groups with disaffected swing voters after the 1992 election. They felt let down by Labour. They believed that Labour did not understand their drive to make their children’s lives better than theirs had been. Blair understood how ‘bettering yourself’ was not a luxury but an imperative, and he helped Labour to get it too.

In the early days of Cameron’s leadership he also reached out to aspirational families with promises about inheritance tax and schools.

Clearly, against a backdrop of recession, maintaining optimism is hard. BritainThinks’ new poll shows fewer agree that ‘my children will be better off than I am’ than they did at the end of the coalition’s first few months (from 35% in 2010 to 27%). We also see a 9% increase is those who agree ‘I’m worried that the next generation won’t have the opportunities that mine had’.

More worrying still for the Government is the 71% who now agree ‘I’m worried that there’s a generation of young people who may never be able to get jobs because of the recession’. This is up 8% since December 2010. Women voters – already the biggest critics of Government performance – are even more likely to agree at 75%.

As Cameron tries to feel his way forward after disastrous local election results, refocusing on the family is an obvious strategic move. However, most parents see looking out for their kids’ future prospects as their core responsibility. Failure to help with this – or worse still, placing obstacles in the way will make any promise about support for families seem hollow.

Deborah Mattinson is the Founding Director of Britain Thinks

  • geedee0520

     Meanwhile – in Greece….

    Of course everyone is worried about future prospects for their children – they recognise that the non-stop growth in living standards has now transferred to the East & Africa. We should be pleased about this (?) as this means more people are being brought up to a relatively decent standard of living. Capitalism seems to work!

    • Quiet_Sceptic

      You give the impression that improvement in our living standards has to come at the cost of other countries or vice versa, yet a lot of the quality of living issues for young people are UK specific:

      – Cost of housing is a big issue for most young people. Other countries manage to provide plenty of affordable housing for their population, our issues are due to our planning policies and behavior of the housing industry.

      – Cost of higher education – we’re free as a country to chose how we allocate the cost of higher education across society and individuals , we could afford to shift the balance of cost back toward the state and society as a whole rather than placing it solely on the individual student at a point in their life when they have least capability of paying for it.

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        I would like a broader set of thinking on the cost of higher education.  I have only my own experience to guide me, but I think there is a model worth examining.  (And I have myself two children who will within a dozen years be of university age, so no doubt a vested interest).

        Britain had the concept of “National Service” until about 1960.  That was focussed on the military.  This could be changed and updated to a voluntary form of National Service, in which payment of university tuition fees is exchanged for commitment to public service for an equal number of years.  Being voluntary, there would be nothing to stop someone from electing to repay fees on the same basis they now do and to join the private sector on leaving university; equally if someone wants to study (for example) geography, then spending 3 years after graduating as a survey officer for DEFRA gives back to society, the graduate pays no fees, and we can all benefit.  To an extent, the NHS already does this with nurses and doctors, but I will acknowledge that is a monopolistic market.

        This would need a lot of research to validate, and it may well be that there are only 2 places in the public service for every ten interested applicants, but even so, I believe the concept has merits and benefits on both sides of the equation.

    • Dave Postles

      Foxconn, Wintek and the sweatshops in Bangladesh are recruiting …

  • derek

    Going underground!

  • Kulgan of Crydee

    The polls don’t lie apparently although should be taken with the proverbial pinch of salt. The figures may say more people are worried for their children under the Coalition than before but until there is a credible alternative voters will not necessarily vote for another party.


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