ASK any mainstream politician if they think more young people should get more involved in politics – and they’re unlikely to give you a negative answer. It’s a brave MP who walks into a high school to explain to a modern studies class that they’d better butt out of their elders’ business until they’re mature enough.

So they mouth the usual platitudes about it being vital that young people’s voices are heard in politics. Until, that is, a young person has the presumption to get involved – or worse, get themselves elected – at which points it is all insults, snark and, if you’re unlucky, tabloid hate campaigns. I can’t think of another country in the world whose public life and media spends so much time telling us how horrific their children are.

This week’s victim was the spare Keir Labour just elected in Selby and Ainsty in North Yorkshire. There are plenty of things you can reasonably object to about Keir Mather. Being born in 1998 isn’t one of them.

Mather has worked as a political henchman for the ghastly Wes Streeting and as a lobbyist for the CBI. If his public remarks during the campaign are anything to go by, he seems likely to be an on-message, corporate, party-line toer who will do anything and say anything the leadership requires of him. And in this respect, he’ll be about as unoriginal as most of the bright young things who find their way into parliament.

There are there currently just 21 MPs under the age of 30 in Westminster. For ­reactionaries with dreams of a greyer ­future for British politics, the good news is we’re heading backwards. The average age of MPs elected with Mrs Thatcher in 1979 was 49.6. The gerontocracy has managed to tighten its grip on the public domain in the decades since. By 2019, the average MP was 51 on entering parliament. You’d think the overwhelming domination of ­parliament by the middle aged might soothe these ­anxieties about a handful of youngsters – but not a bit of it.

“I think we mustn’t become a repeat of The Inbetweeners, you have got to have people who have done stuff,” Tory MP Johnny Mercer huffed at last week’s by-election results. Needless to say, the “done stuff” test only ever applies to young politicians. The clubbable mediocrity whose greatest achievement in life is winning the support of his local Tory association, and blandly surviving into his sixth decade, is taken to pass the “done stuff” test because grey hairs continue to sprout from his head.

On LinkedIn, Boris Johnson’s replacement in Uxbridge describes himself as a “distinguished and considered senior ­operations leader with 28 years’ ­experience of delivering results in complex and highly unionised settings through a ­rigorous ­approach to ­continuous ­improvement, performance leadership and employee ­engagement”. As you can see, he acquired a flair for corporate gibberish too. Will this make him a better parliamentarian than the young man from north ­Yorkshire? I somehow doubt it.

But it was a revealing moment. You never need to look far to find fear and loathing in British politics. But young politicians seem to attract outsize antipathy from their opponents. When they’re young women – ageism and misogyny come as a two-for-one deal. Add ethnic, religious or sexual diversity into the mix – well, you know how it goes.

These days social nastiness is reliably blame on social media. We ignore the fact that more often than not, it’s the ­mainstream media which picks the ­victim, sets the tone, and sanctions the persecution. Mean tweets are often just adjectival to this conventional vilification.

It’s no accident that the young ­politicians who the tabloids treat as ­lightning rods tend not to be baby Tories, but left-leaning youngsters with a ­critical view of current government policy, or ­divergent views on the culture war ­obsessions and celebrity witch hunts currently dominating airtime and newsprint in the UK.

The sheer banality of Keir Mather’s politics will probably spare him the kind of tarring and feathering which has been tried out on Nadia Whittome and Mhairi Black as political attitudes crater along generational lines – though you just know hacks will be obsessively digging through his back catalogue this weekend for an embarrassing Sunday splash.

The thing is – politics matters to young people, and for years has offered them next to nothing except more debt, higher housing costs, fewer opportunities and weekly slaggings for failing to meet these series of social and economic challenges with sufficient equanimity.

If you grew up in a world where only a handful of people attended university, if you stepped into work after you ­graduated, unburdened by debt, bought houses with thousands of pounds of savings then saw your property’s value increase by several multiples while you stood still, could ­afford children, and still expect to retire in your sixties, on final salary pension with a lump sum – then the social and economic experiences of 25 year olds are likely to map poorly onto yours.

Viewpoint diversity isn’t important in politics for the sake of it. It is human ­nature to universalise from our own experiences. And in politics, nothing is more dangerous, because the world changes – and if you’re surrounded only by people who look, and talk and think like you, you’re not going to notice.

Distributive justice is one of the most basic things politics is about. Who keeps the social benefits and who bears the ­social burdens? On housing, education, social security, skills and employment – young people’s needs and challenges have not been prioritised, and having ­youngsters in parliament can only help point that out.

Heaven knows – the auld yins don’t seem to want to talk about these issues. In the Times this weekend, the Tories have announced that “Sunak aims to ­divide and rule after poll setback” with a “new ­focus on migrants, trans rights and crime.” Stoking social mayhem, scapegoating, and fostering the uptick in social hatred and recrimination is ­apparently a perfectly respectable political gambit. Ironically, it is Sunak’s heavy ­Inbetweener energy which makes it easy to forget what an ugly, cynical government he leads.

Last week, the Prime Minister has identified a new public enemy – it is now ­universities’ turn for their crackdown. We can look forward to lecturers ­wearing high viz jackets in public and Channel 4 fly on the wall documentaries ­following the ­Office for Students’ dawn raids on underperforming academic ­departments. Enforcement officers can pose with ­confiscated degree parchments on ­Twitter. Zero tolerance ministerial visits can be organised.

It is all misdirection. Struggling to find a job in this economy? Don’t blame us. We’ve only been responsible for it for 13 years. Lumbered with massive debt? Don’t blame the people who loaded you up with tuition fees: it is universities which are sub-prime.

All this is presumably to take our minds off the diverse material and environmental challenges modern Britain faces. Complaining about “anti-motorist” policies is much more diverting than contending with the heat death of the universe.

Moaning about woke youngsters and their pronouns is time not spent scrutinising the government about the causes of and solutions to low-growth inflation. And we’re told “the adults are back in charge.” Please.

We say we want more “ordinary ­people” with “real world experience” to take up the challenge of becoming MPs. But the institutions of our politics foster working conditions which ensures that anyone with an ordinary sense of their personal qualities, a skin of ordinary thickness, and an ordinary appetite for public ­scrutiny would run a mile instead of thinking of running for Westminster. And if you aren’t mad before you’re ­elected, politics often makes you so.

It is difficult not to empathise with Mhairi Black’s reflections on deciding not to run again. Being a career politician isn’t just a professional trajectory: it’s a psychological diagnosis.