I am a middle child. I always knew I was underappreciated, or even slightly neglected by my family, but thankfully popular culture crystallised this for me in the episode of The Simpsons titled 'Lisa in the Middle' where Lisa is diagnosed with 'Middle Child Syndrome'. Finally, some proof to my theory that indeed I was left to fend for myself, while my elder sister was treated with reverence and awe, and my younger brother would be forever the idealised as the darling baby.
So, why have I shared this information? Other than of course, the obvious call for sympathy and pity - please do get your violins out. I've shared it because as we look ever more wearily towards the general election, I can't help but feel a parallel. There is a sizeable proportion of the electorate who are suffering middle child syndrome.
Before I descend too much into self-pity, let me explain. I have been following the election fairly closely and many opinions have been voiced regarding election fatigue and redundant policy, but, my over-riding feeling is that there is a colossal disconnect between the voting population and the politicians. This disconnect does not stem the lack of discussion surrounding topics we are invested in; for example, tuition fees, Brexit or the NHS. In my opinion, it stems directly from the role of politics and politicians in today's society.
Ultimately, there are big decisions going on which will have massive implications on future generations. But, these grandiose statements and rousing speeches from politicians are not backed up by any noticeable change in people's everyday life. The politics have not yet impacted the people.
Yes, we know that everyday costs of living are rising and we know that people are living beyond their means, but we have been warned about this since the credit crunch in 2007/8. We know technology is impacting our lives and will have ramifications on jobs and work-life balance, but this subject has been debated since Tim Berners Lee first connected up the World Wide Web. I could go on, but my point is that nothing has changed.
The disconnect fundamentally is that we, the electorate, have stopped worrying about the big issues. We understand we can't actually control it, and we understand that our leaders never actually deliver on manifestos that promise so much. We have reached a point where it is common practise for politicians to literally go back on their promises the day after they have been made, and absolutely nothing is done about it!
So, we have stopped caring. We have historically spent a great deal of energy getting angry or passionate about changes we don't like, but I worry that the energy of the electorate is spent. We just don't believe anymore, we don't trust anymore, we don't care anymore. We live our lives day to day and struggle to be enthused about the fate of our future anymore, as it feels whatever protest me make, there is simply nothing that will change.
But, why did I start talking about the middle child complex? Let me be very simplistic and divide the electorate into three groups. My theory is that the eldest and youngest groups both have specific issues which affect them, issues they care about and ones that they can impact, but, this means the middle group are left bereft and ignored.
For those who were legally allowed to vote for the first time in 2010 (and have joined the voting population since then), the eldest of these would now be in their early 30s. They are actively interested in current events, with 69% of them receiving their news daily through technology channels, according to the American Press Institute. But, they distrust the world of politics and its promises, having been let down in their voting infancy by the decision of the Liberal Democrats to abandon their pledge over tuition fees. They have a lack of empathy towards politicians and their ability to safeguard the future landscape for this generation. This was compounded in the Brexit referendum with 72% of this generation who voted, voted remain, and subsequently, have felt let down by the Baby Boomer generation who opted for the shorter-term horizons. These millennials or 'Gen Z' feel disconnected from long term goals and aspirations, as such they are focussed on tangible shorter-term goals such as tuition fees. Ultimately, this manifests itself in apathy, as demonstrated at the ballot box with a 36% turnout for the EU referendum.
The elder generation or Baby Boomers, are the generation who are targeted by the politicians. Please don't mistake me, there has been an active effort to engage with the younger vote, but my overriding feeling is that while the campaign is active, this is not necessarily where maximum effort has been placed. The politicians understand that the key to election success is the elder voters and as such policies, debates and canvassing are focussed around this target population.
So, why are they disconnected? They are a generation that believe they are special and rightly or wrongly, are perceived as focussed on preserving their own lifestyles, rather than the wider environment. The disconnect comes from their understanding of their power in the landscape, they have too much sway for the politicians not to not listen to them. As such, they focus on the change they can make for themselves. Why should they be interested in the longer-term visions or prospects that the politicians are laying out? Ultimately, this does not affect them. It is a classic case of the politicians playing the short game till the next parliamentary term, to win votes, rather than setting aspirational plans in place that will have long-term benefits for the country.
Finally, the middle child, of course always left till last. The generations who are neither the youngest or the eldest, but sit nicely in the middle. We have been through Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown, we have seen the coalition fail to deliver and we have seen our leaders continually let down our hopes for a better country. We understand that the only way we can control our environment and hopefully deliver something meaningful to society is to look inwards. To take control of our day to day responsibilities and aspire to achieve, we want to leave the world in a better state than we found it, but no one is listening. So, we accept that as the middle child, our voice will always be muffled under the Bart's and Maggie's of the world. We do what we can as individuals to make that difference and accept that our parental politicians will never cease to neglect us, as they know we can fend for ourselves.
So, Lisa Simpson, I salute you as we, the middle child of the voting population is experiencing what Dr. Hibbert professionally coined as 'Middle Child Syndrome', when "the parents lavish attention on the first born because of the novelty and the youngest because they're cutest, leaving the middle child starved for attention," and this, Marge, May, Corbyn, and Homer, is a serious business.
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