A report has found (as if we didn’t already know) that low pay and lack of work have brought about ‘suspended adulthood’ among Britain’s young people, with many living or moving back in with their parents.
In Lady Thatcher’s Wink we’re just a few years into the future, and the hapless prime minister Warbytton takes lessons from a young cleaning woman at 10 Downing Street:
‘I read one of your speeches in the papers yesterday,’ she said. ‘To be honest, I was only checking that you really were the prime minister, because politics isn’t really my kind of thing. Do you believe all that stuff about young people?’
‘Possibly, I suppose. Possibly not. There’s yards of it. What stuff?’
‘Youth on the march to a better future. A nation only as vibrant as its young. The generations linking arms. I mean that kind of crap, Warbie.’
‘It’s aspirational,’ he said, remembering the tutorials with his press secretary. ‘And we’ve statistics.’ He closed his eyes in order to concentrate. ‘A two per cent rise in apprenticeships over the last five years, rises in tuition fees pegged to ten per cent . . . ‘
He was unable to retrieve any more, and when he opened his eyes he saw her sitting down with a creamed cloth held towards him, for all the world like a sword on which he was invited to fall.
‘Fancy taking a turn?’ she asked.
Warbytton, bridling, was tempted to point out who he was, but it seemed an inappropriately pompous things to do and, besides, she had already done her homework. He ignored the cloth.
‘On an Up Yours agreement, of course.’
‘That’s what we call your Unpaid Youth Recruitment Scheme. Thirty hours a week compulsory work experience in industry. After six months the lucky ones are promoted to Screw You.’
‘Do tell me.’
‘Short-term Contract Reward for Young Strivers. Three months without wages, but with travel costs paid.’
‘The Finger. Final Government Employment Relief. A month at benefits level and then out on your ear if you can’t land a permanent job.’
‘Well, I never,’ he said. ‘We do seem to be doing rather a lot, don’t we?’