If only young people were allowed to vote, we would almost certainly be waking on Friday morning to Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn’s first address from outside 10 Downing Street. Fortunately for him, he would not need to deal with Brexit in the speech since the referendum result would have gone the other way, and neither would he need to worry about President Donald Trump’s proposed visit to the UK - among the first to congratulate him on winning would be President Hillary Clinton. Rather like the episode of US TV show “Dallas” which, faced with flagging ratings, wrote off an entire series as “a dream” in order to bring back the popular character Bobby Ewing - if only the young had voted, we could put the past 12 months down to a dystopian reverie. Imagine a world where Brexit and Trump won, we would chuckle.
There are, of course, good reasons why younger generations vote how they do. Their experiences of life are far removed from their elders and their aspirations wholly different - many of the voters casting their ballots for the first time in 2017 will never have known a world without the EU, the internet, Harry Potter, Amazon, the mobile phone and student debt; 20 years ago I bought my first first home (in London) when I was in my first job with a salary of £15,000, something that today would be impossible. In publishing we have experienced these vast changes through new technologies that have revolutionised how we work and how we think about “the book” - yet despite the seismic shifts, only recently have we begun to address whether the make-up of the trade reflects the society we inhabit.
Over the past six years The Bookseller has tracked how the trade might be changing through the annual “Rising Stars” list, which highlights today’s blossoming talent - people listed have included Cathryn Summerhayes, Bob Johnston, Dan Franklin (digital), Nic Cheetham, Henry Volans, Felicity Blunt, Emma Hopkin, Mark Richards and Oliver Rhodes. Now they are joined by Sharmaine Lovegrove, Florentyna Martin and Adam Gauntlett. In its early years, digital was the prism through which the trade looked for fresh thinking, but six years on diversity and Brexit represent the major challenges, with recruitment and promotion focused on those employees that can offer something new, insightful and different, with an emphasis on those from backgrounds economically and culturally diverse.
It is worth noting that the Rising Stars feature does not differentiate by age - and rightly so. Understanding the world is not the sole remit of the young, neither is the future their responsibility alone. We may all vote differently, but we are in this together. And sadly, whatever happens this week, the past year wasn’t a dream.
Philip Jone is editor of The Bookseller.