On her dizzyingly popular television programme Location, Location, Location Kirstie Allsopp once downed a pint of Guinness. When I say downed, that might be a touch of exaggeration. But she certainly enjoyed it. I liked the lack of front this presented. There was no confected sipping delicateness. In she jumped. The in-for-a-penny and off-the-edge leap is something of her stock in trade.
On Sunday, in she jumped again. This time into the house buying fire. She heated up the old chestnut that young people could afford houses if they would only stop watching Netflix while licking overpriced lattes and avocado toast off each other.
Allsopp laid out how she’d put herself through terrible privations in early life in order to get on the housing ladder. This involved eating sandwiches and getting help to buy from her parents. And she hasn’t looked back.
There was also an element of Norman Tebbit’s onyerbike advice in Kirstie’s focus. If you can’t buy a house where you live, she reasoned, then pop off elsewhere and get one there. This is more than a little ironic given that her fame is based a lot on a show that is really, really, REALLY focused on location.
Leaving aside the ongoing generalised and reductive lunacy of the pack a lunch/buy a house position there is an underlying, and growing, deeper issue. For many commentators, young people (basically anybody under 30) make up a species who are architects of their own downfall, wasters who are too busy buffing up their instas rather than plotting their futures; they should be sneered at and told off and made to buck up their ideas. It’s an updated version of Victorians believing that children should be seen and not heard.
It’s the wrong way round. We, the parents and grandparents of the left behind generation, need to keep an open mind. For 25 years there has been a race to send millions more to university. To what end? If we were lucky enough to get to university, we left with little or no debt. It was manageable. Now, there is a burden of tens of thousands of pounds for each graduate. It can be presented as a tax on future earnings, but there is a double whammy there. What are the jobs that will allow them to hit a threshold to repay? And if too many don’t hit it, won’t that increase the likelihood of changes to interest rates on student loans, creeping up the amount due for those who can pay?