On a hot summer day just before the storm clouds burst over the economies of the Western world, I was talking to a group of teenage outreach workers at the London Mayor’s office. What motivated them, I wanted to know? I suppose in a way I was looking for some sort of spark of optimism in a picture that seemed unremittingly gloomy. No-one ever seemed to have anything good or even hopeful to say about the young. At school they disrupted their lessons, had no focus, passed their exams only by dint of the fact that standards were falling. On the streets they drank, smoked too much and got embroiled in violence. When they were forced to look for a job they lacked direction, had no idea how to dress or behave and in any case rarely turned up because they couldn’t get out of bed. Even if they were not lazy, feckless, drunk or violent, they were probably depressed, overweight and unfit: the United Nations’ children’s body UNICEF had reported young people in developed countries, particularly Britain and the US, were too often unhealthy and unhappy.