Loughborough University
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Going grey : the mediation of politics in an ageing society

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posted on 2013-11-11, 14:36 authored by Scott Davidson
Population ageing is transforming the age structure of the electorate in Britain. The pace of the age-shift in electoral politics is being accelerated by the widening gap in turnout rates between younger and older age groups Within this context some writers have begun to believe that the grey lobby will grow ever more powerful and difficult to ignore. Lloyd (2002) argues the UK is beginning to reflect US politics where the MRP has been described as a larger and more powerful lobby than organised labour. Some respected theorists and prominent writers such as Sinn (2002) and Dychtwald (1999a) go as far as predicting ageing democracies such as Germany and the USA will soon become 'gerontocracies'. For other writers the situation is more paradoxical, a case of large numbers but small influence excluded from political influence by the consequences of their exit from the workplace (Walker 1998), with little evidence of increased responsiveness by governments or political parties to organised groups of older people (Vincent et al, 2001). This thesis investigates the rise of the grey vote and the mediation of population ageing by the political parties and the media in response to the demographic transformation of the electorate. It establishes and investigates the theoretical place of age and older people in society, the manner in which the media portrays ageing and the place of age, cohort and generation in electoral behaviour. For the first time the shifting age structure of the electorate is quantified at constituency level and projected forward to the year 2025. In recognition of the close relationship between politics and the media in constructing and negotiating dominant narratives and discourses a content analysis of how the UK press have framed and discussed the implications of population was undertaken. The General Election of 2005 was used an opportunity to further analyse media framing and to conduct a content and discourse analysis of how the political parties constructed narratives around ageing issues and the position of older voters. Qualitative case studies of how flagship current affairs productions by the BBC that focused on the political implications of ageing were also incorporated into the analysis. The continued rise of the grey vote is projected by this research to put older voters in the position of numerically forming majorities in large number of Westminster seats. The emergence of around 300 seats with a 'Grey Majority' leads this research to contend that no political party that seeks to regularly form a majority in the Commons will succeed without securing significant voting support from older people. Population ageing is rarely front page news, but it is frequently incorporated as a sub-theme in a wide range of stories. A 'time bomb' narrative which accepts many neo-liberal normative assumptions is gaining ground particularly in elite journalism. The main parties currently consciously reject these narratives and are involved in developing complex discourses for negotiating the terms of allocating additional resources and attention to ageing issues. The constructions and reconstructions of the baby boomer generation are emerging as a focus point for these competing narratives of the likely implications of the new 'grey politics'.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


© Scott Davidson

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en