Labour’s missing “baby boomer II” generation

The changing of Labour's guard - whenever it occurs - will skip a generation. The Labour party is bereft of leadership from the second decade of baby boomers.

James Macintyre’s fascinating piece in the New Statesman on a “new generation of Labour power brokers” misses one important point. The changing of the guard – whenever it occurs – will skip a generation. Unique in British, and indeed global politics, the Labour party is virtually bereft of leadership from the second decade of baby boomers.

Three of the world’s seven most most powerful leaders – Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy and Canada’s Stephen Harper – were born between 1955 to 1964, the “baby boomer II” decade. Labour’s Cabinet is made up almost entirely of those born before 1955 or after 1964.

Only Lord Adonis, Shaun Woodward, Ben Bradshaw, and Baroness Royall – a mere 17 per cent of the Cabinet – were born between 1955 and 1964. In addition, Jon Cruddas, who has never held Ministerial office but is rumoured to be considering a future leadership challenge, was born in 1962.

During Labour’s 13 years in Government almost all the leading lights were born in the first baby boomer decade from 1945 t0 1954. Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Jack Straw, Harriet Harman, Robin Cook, Peter Mandelson, Mo Mowlam, David Blunkett, Alan Johnson, Charles Clarke, Alistair Darling, George Robertson, and Clare Short were all born in the first decade after the Second World War while John Prescott, Margaret Beckett, Donald Dewar, and Derry Irvine were all born in the decade before.

Some second decade baby boomers have come and gone from Labour’s top table. Alan Milburn, once touted as a future leader is chief among them, while others include Stephen Byers, Hazel Blears, Jacqui Smith, and Caroline Flint. Only Ms Smith occupied one of the great offices of state.

Of the “new generation” examined by Macintyre, David Miliband (1965) is the eldest followed by Douglas Alexander and Ed Balls (1967), Ed Miliband and Yvette Cooper (1969), and finally Liam Byrne and Andy Burnham (1970).

By contrast, more than half the current shadow cabinet is made up of baby boomers (cohort #2) including Liam Fox, David Willetts, Andrew Lansley, Theresa May, and Oliver Letwin (all 1956), William Hague (1961), and Chris Grayling (1962). George Osborne (1971) is the youngest member of either cabinet or shadow cabinet while David Cameron (1966) is younger than most of his colleagues.

Picture credit: New Statesman

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