My 60th birthday occurred in the final run up to the referendum, and it’s a point when any thinking person looks back and then wonders about the future, and what if anything they will leave behind them. With result of the referendum I am ashamed of my generation; I am ashamed of our greed; I am ashamed that we have bequeathed a world to the young worse than the one that our parents bequeathed us; but most of all I am ashamed of our lies and our cowardice.
Almost 40 years ago, like many other lads from the banks of Mersey, Tyne and Clyde rivers, I fled poverty and hopelessness of 1970’s Britain to look for and find work in Germany. I was free to travel across Europe in search of a modicum of hope and self-respect. No one in the European governments questioned my right as an EEC citizen to do this.
Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere were the safety valve for UK Plc, absorbing surplus labour and removing the potential burden of unemployment and welfare payments. Even so, Britain convulsed in riot as the poor and dispossessed railed against the lack of hope and the gross inequality. UK Plc responded by bribing the employed working class with tax cuts and windfalls derived from Right To Buy sales, while frittering away the benefits of the new oil revenues. UK Plc chose to abandon the old industrial areas that had slaved away in decrepit factories and mines to create income to service UK’s war debts and served to renew London and its environs at the expense of everywhere else.
And now, my generation has chosen to walk away from Europe. My generation lazily absorbed the lies and platitudes of the Leave campaign, confident that even if things went wrong it could rely upon someone else, the young, to bail them out. My generation, with a world view taken straight from a “Dad’s Army” script, cheered as less than half of the British population voted to quit the security and certainty of the EU.
For decades with growing stridency my generation have exploited the ignorance and the good nature of the young and used false claims of wartime sacrifice to demand an unequal share of the national commonwealth. We have demanded, upon these false claims, to be placed at the front of every queue and to be indulged as no previous generation has been indulged. As a group we have greater disposable income than any other part of society, and yet we demand and expect free prescriptions, TV licenses and use of public transport. We have gerrymandered the town planning systems to ensure that our property based wealth is safeguarded against the threat of housing market over-supply. We have glibly watched the core cost of living for the young rise year on year to the point where our children and grandchildren have no possibility of enjoying the same quality of life that we enjoy, and we justify this repeatedly on the false claim that we have sacrificed something for the young. The Leave campaign rolled in its propaganda a TV political broadcast using the emotional ties between the old and the young to persuade the young to vote for Leave. It was crude and dishonest and reflected the presumption that the young will always stepped aside for the old.
The political parties pandered to us because we voted in successive elections, whereas the young lazily and naively disengaged from politics. We increased student fees as we extended benefits and services to the old. We rewarded the established 40 and 50 year olds at the peak of their earning power with tax cuts. Year on year we failed to build enough affordable housing, even though our economy allegedly soared to greater heights, so that house prices rose upwards on an endless spiral forever out of reach of the young.
There are no Spitfires doing victory rolls in the blues skies above us, no cheering victory parades and anonymous couples dancing in the street. There is just the grim drab reality that we have betrayed the young.
This is not the end of a war against Europe as much of the Leave campaign has been portrayed. It is merely the opening salvo in a civil war about to descend upon us all. My generation have marked out the dividing lines. So self-absorbed have we become that we have failed to notice that the other side, the opposition, the enemy, has picked the weapons of democracy. The established political parties too are failing to heed this development, and have no plans whatsoever to address the justified demands of the young. They are too wrapped up in the self-delusion that their traditional voter base is absorbed in.
My generation has worn out its emotive and dishonest claims upon the young; we have broken the generational compact. We should now accept that we shall be afforded no mercy as the young retaliate against us. At the next election, there will be an army of young people equipped to do battle for their interests. They have had a taste of the conflict to come and learned that only if they are united and single-minded can they hope to win. My generation are too lazy, smug and above all divided to withstand this change and we have no one to blame but ourselves.