Soixant Huitards

All of us have a dominating cultural or global event that shapes our way of thinking about the world. For my parents it was the war – even though they were too young to fight in it. The ethos that it engendered, the privations they endured and the pride in the achievement shaped the way they looked, and look, at things. For us baby boomers it was the sixties. The French have a word for it – the soixant huitards – the sixty-eighters. The soixant huitards simply look at things differently to their parents.

Tony Blair is soixant-huitard to his toenails, a baby boomer in everything he does. But what about Gordon Brown? Can you imagine him with long hair playing a guitar? Or smoking a joint - whether or not he inhaled? Pas possible. The only plausible sixties Brown that you can picture is him coming out of No 10 with union leaders in a rumpled black suits having had beer and sandwiches with Harold Wilson. In other words we have a prime minister who, at a very profound level, has little in common with the people he aspires to lead. No wonder he is so tone deaf to his electorate – and so deeply unsuited to be prime-minister.

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