John Harris

Journalist & Author

Living with the opposition: families who vote differently

Mum’s a lifelong Tory but her daughter’s gone Green. Dad backs Ukip and his son can’t shift him. Are relations strained at home? Candice Pires hears young people and their parents discuss their differences, while John Harris explains why the political divide is widening between the generations

To instantly understand the way we used to think about politics, voter loyalty and the basic shape of the British party system, it’s a good idea to go right back to ’82: 1882, that is, when Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta Iolanthe featured one of the composers’ most celebrated couplets: “Every boy and gal that’s born into the world alive/Is either a little Liberal, or else a little Conservative.” Give or take the fact that Labour was to seize the “progressive” mantle from the Liberals, what those words implied held true for most of the 20th century: that politics would always be carved up between two monolithic parties, and most of the time, loyalties would be passed from parents to their children.

Obviously, things are very different these days. As evidenced by the fuss over the TV election debates – or lack of them – Britain’s politics are now split between at least seven parties. Moreover, the twentysomethings some people call “millennials” are the least politically loyal generation on record. “What we’ve seen is people being less and less attached to a party on dogmatic or historical grounds,” says Bobby Duffy, the managing director of Ipsos Mori’s Social Research Institute, and an expert on young people’s voting patterns. “There’s a lot more switching and sifting among the millennials.”

Related: Meet the students voting Ukip

I try to convince Mum to vote Green

Hannah has always wanted to be very individual

Our differences in politics make our relationship better – we have a talking point

If he joined Ukip I’d say: No, they’re a bit too nasty.

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