Alex Tsipras, the first Greek called Alex to come close to destroying a continent for 2,400 years, is 36 years old.
36! I'm only 32, but there is absolutely no danger of me running the country in the next four years (pro-Europeans, breathe a sigh of relief). Still, it seems unfair - especially as "Sexy Alexi" has considerably more hair than I do, and the undying devotion of the vast bulk of my left wing female friends. He's like some kind of dastardly communist popstar; a kind of red Justin Bieber.
Now, admittedly, when the previous continent-threatening Greek, Alexander the Great was 36, he had been dead for three years, but being serious for a moment, to be the leader of a political party - let alone one with a chance of running a country, even one as wracked by strife as Greece - is an impressive achievement. This trend is not just limited to Greece; in Canada, for instance, a 19-year-old and a 20-year-old (and six university students overall) were recently elected to Parliament. In 2007 we lowered the minimum age for candidacy for Parliament from 21 to 18.
While no 18-year-old has yet won a seat, it's worth noting that debonair spam faced playboy David William Donald Cameron was 38 when he became leader of the Tories, and was, at 43, the youngest PM since Lord Liverpool. Just to make it clear, Lord Liverpool was the Prime Minister when Pride & Prejudice was first released.
Old folk are not welcome in politics. Just look at the ruthless decapitation of Ming Campbell by the Liberal Democrats, preferring to replace the old man with a "younger leader who might connect more with voters; look at the mud slung at John McCain around the fear that he might die in office.
While some of this is simple ageism, being a politician is clearly a stressful and prematurely ageing thing to do; ultimately, the job takes its toll on even the youngest office holders. Look at Gordon Brown in 1997, compared with the shambling wreck that was pried out of Downing Street in 2010. Seeing the treatment meted out by colleagues and the media to candidates, many - especially those with an established home & family life - must be put off putting themselves forward.
The really odd thing about this, in my eyes at least, is that this is going on against a backdrop of an ageing population, who are increasingly working longer. Is this the future? Are we doomed to be surpassed by and ruled eternally by fresh-faced youngsters?
It will happen, as long as professional politics is a viable career. If you wander around Westminster, it feels like you're stepping into a particularly well informed creche. Everyone looks about 13; no-one has ever had a job outside the party they are working for. Most of them are working for free, affordable only because mummy & daddy are happy to indulge junior's political ambitions.
This gives this legion of evil foeti a tremendous advantage in securing the right to run for office. They know the system; they know which levers to pull, and which people to speak with; in this democratised world of everyone having the ear of the political gossip sites which can make or break reputations, some get their taste for mudslinging early.
I was shocked when a young Tory staffer told me "it's always so upsetting when you find out it's one of your friends who has briefed against you". The trouble with this high school atmosphere - where a substantial number of MPs and especially Special Advisors (SPaDs) are overachievers who decided to go into politics aged about 13, is it creates a brutal, bitchy, immature atmosphere.
Some of these brutal, bitchy overachievers will become our leaders, with a talent for nothing more than greasy social climbing and brutal cannibalistic backstabbing. In short, soon every politician will be Ed Miliband or Ed Balls.
I think people should have to work outside of politics before they can stand as an MP; as I, a 32-year-old journalist, I can barely find my arse with both hands, so I struggle to see what an 18-year-old can possibly bring to politics. Perhaps the solution is age limits; The U.S. Constitution sets strict age requirements for election into federal office -- 25 for the House, 30 for the Senate, and 35 for the presidency. But that wouldn't end the Spadocracy we are busily creating at the moment.
I think we have to change our attitude to older people in society being able to perform across the board; if retiring at 70 is to become the norm, then we need more gerontocracy.
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