The success of February’s Crouch End Literary Festival surprised the organisers and delighted the participants.

Centred on the excellent Hornsey Library, the festival raised a couple of thousand much-needed pounds for the Hornsey Food Bank. It also attracted hundreds of locals for an astonishing variety of events featuring local authors and creatives.

My highlight was “In Conversation”, when Catherine West MP relished the opportunity to turn the tables and interview political pundits Steve Richards and Robert Peston.

The Gallery was packed: the 100 members of the audience had paid in advance to put questions about the environment, Ukraine, housing and, of course, the election.

Ninety per cent of the audience looked rather like me: 60+, grey-haired, middle class. Their questions were well-informed, perceptive and reflected the passions and concerns of many.

But, I found myself wondering, why had baby boomers shown up mob-handed, but not Gen Z?

Ham & High: David Winskill wondered why Gen Z don't seem interested with mainstream politicsDavid Winskill wondered why Gen Z don't seem interested with mainstream politics (Image: Archant)

I spoke to Robert after the event. We’re both local lads (me Aloysius’, he Highgate Wood) of a similar age and (vaguely) remember the Hornsey College of Art Occupation in 1968.

We agreed that had Catherine’s event been held in 1974 and headlined with Hugh Rossi MP grilling Bernard Levin and Robin Day, the audience would have been much younger, a lot hairier, but equally as committed and passionate.

True, today’s soapbox for a lot of younger people is social media; many are also brilliantly well-informed about our failed housing market (how can any young person afford to live independently in Crouch End?), the failure of neo-liberalism and the increasing impact of the climate emergency.

The world that they will take over (so promising for us at their age) looks bleak.

Their bed-sitter forebears received grants to attend Hornsey Art School, while recent graduates will be saddled with average debts of £46,000.

Entry into the cut-throat jobs market (final salary pension scheme? – forget it!) is increasingly governed by brutal algorithms, and AI is becoming a threat to many professions. Public services and infrastructure are falling apart, while corporations continue to hoover up profits. Health and wealth inequalities widen: the number of people in absolute poverty is a national disgrace.

Increasingly, Gen Z-ers see mainstream politics not as a solution, but as making things worse.

A few days before the library event, The Commons further shredded its already tatty reputation during the Gaza ceasefire debate. Rather than focus on unity and outcomes, many of our MPs preferred the sugar rush of political one-upmanship to principles.

Sir Keir Starmer is a democrat and has two teenage children. Clearly, fixing our dysfunctional economy will be a priority.

But we also need to restore faith in our democracy as something that delivers for everyone and something that we can be proud of.

  • David Winskill is a Crouch End resident and campaigner.