Youth work, as with many of the liberal professions, generally finds a stronger affinity with social democratic parties. Youth workers’ daily confrontation with the effects of social structures on the lives of energetic and able young people, together with their intimate experience with inequality, frustrated ambition and truncated opportunity, tends to make them look for governments that will attend to those issues. After 18 years of Conservative government, including the relentless ideological and policy storm of the Thatcher years (1979–90), the accession of the Labour Party to power in 1997 was widely welcomed in the social services sector, including among youth workers. But, 10 years later, when I arrived in the UK, youth workers across the board were expressing a deep disillusionment with the Labour Party in general and its current administration in particular (see also Lister, 2001). What happened? What was the promise, and how was it unfulfilled?
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