Colin Brazier on Brexit and the youth vote:CB
Boris Johnson says he hasn’t seen anything like it since the weeks following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. There is, he wrote in The Daily Telegraph, a kind of “contagious mourning” in the air.
People who found themselves on the losing side in the EU referendum debate had succumbed to a kind of “hysteria”.
Whether you agree with
Mr Johnson or not, it does seem that the convulsion of defeat has prompted some observers to question — at a fundamental level — how our democracy works.
In particular, the idea that the young had their futures stolen by older voters, has gained widespread currency. Inter-generational conflict has, apparently, reached a deafening pitch. Children are not yet denouncing their parents in a Maoist attempt to eradicate the ancien regime, but there is a general grievance that the Leave vote was a baby-boomer stitch-up.
It began during the campaign itself. After a news channel interview with Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, I turned to my co-presenter and noted that he had come very close to asserting that a young vote was worth more than an old vote.
Now the campaign is over and that hint is a full-blown demand. The Guardian’s Shiv Malik, appearing on BBC Radio 4’s excellent Moral Maze, said the required remedy might be to give the young “one and a half votes”. This tilting of the franchise was necessary, he said, in a world where long-term decisions — like Brexit — had the longest effect on the young.
Will the next Conservative leader take any notice of these demands? The outgoing PM has made it clear he does not support — as the SNP does — lowering the voting age to 16. Tapering votes to curb the power of older voters is unthinkable for a Government which has courted them with generous pensions and a range of benefits which are not means-tested.
However, some Tories are deeply troubled by the current demographic settlement. In his 2010 book The Pinch, David ‘Two-Brains’ Willetts, wondered if social cohesion would suffer because of inter-generational unfairness. The arguments are now well-worn. Anyone over 50 enjoyed cheap housing and higher education, effectively cross-subsidised by those lower down the age distribution.
But another Tory MP, Jesse Norman, offers another way of looking at the relationship between age and entitlement, in his 2013 book about the great Anglo-Irish political theorist Edmund Burke. 
Norman explored Burke’s idea that politics is a contract between the past, present and future generations. In Willetts’ world, the old have a duty to the young — in their lifetime. In Burke’s view, that responsibility extends to the dead and the unborn.
talking
Whose analysis might help us find a path to generational fairness? I would argue that both do. There is, as Willetts contends, a prime facie case that lies behind the current indignation about inter-generational unfairness. But any solution
must include a nod to the Burkean tradition that no-one group — the young, for instance — can monopolise the franchise.
That is a new idea in itself. For millennia, societies worked on the basis that with age came wisdom. Decisions fell to those who had experience, and experience was hard won.
The key lesson of gerontology is that living to a ripe old age took strength and good fortune. To be aged was to be lucky — and scarce. Now it is normal and it is the young who are, increasingly, in short supply.
So, at least until the demographics stabilise, we have to game the system, tinker with the franchise so the interests of the young generation (and unborn generations) are not overlooked. And yet this must be done in a way that does not reverse the fundamental notion that experience yields sagacity. The old cannot be punished simply by dint of being older.
One potential answer is to remove all age-related exclusions on the franchise. Give everyone — including children — the vote. But vest it in the hands of those who have, speaking generally, demonstrably proven they care about the next generation.
Parents.
All children under the age of 18 would get the ballot — to be exercised by a parent or guardian. If those parents held different political views (not unknown in the EU referendum and certainly in many other elections) then they would lose their proxy status and the child’s vote would be voided.
We are accustomed to the state acting in loco parentis. It’s a satisfying — if improbable — idea that parents might play a fuller role as guardians of the state.
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8 Comments on "The Age Of Brexit"

  1. Peter Kennedy | 5th July 2016 at 9:11 am | Reply

    Whilst there may be a vocal minority of young people who are shouting about their stolen future my concern is with the rest of them, and I’m a very worried man. As part of my schooling I received a decent introduction to politics and they gave us enough information for us to make our own minds up about a broad spectrum of issues, everything from the Common Market to the fate of the House of Lords.

    Now, fast forward to the Facebook generation. Government & Politics is probably no longer taught in schools and the daughter of a friend of mine (18 years old and her first time in a polling booth) voted for BREXIT. Why? She doesn’t like David Cameron and wanted to get rid of him. So long as she can get Facebook and Twitter on her iPhone and there are endless talent shows on TV she’s happy because whatever happens someone else will fix it.

    Giving the vote to sixteen year old children is not an option.

  2. Sorry Colin but that idea at the end has to be one of the barmiest I’ve seen yet. So I’ll throw a barmier one back at you.
    No one should be allowed to live beyond 65, on their 65th birthday everybody should be euthanised. Compared to Logans Run that is pretty generous. The benefits would be huge, no NHS crisis, no pensions black holes and all those lovely houses becoming vacant earlier thus helping the housing shortage. Just imagine the tax cuts it would allow not to mention the new employment opportunities. A new euthanasia industry would develop as well as a bounty hunting industry to deal with the socially irresponsible who tried to shirk their social duty to shuffle off quietly. Then in about 40 years time todays generation snowflake could cry and whine about it and get a petition up to reverse it so that they didn’t actually have to die themselves.

  3. Interesting debate. I would worry that there were many writers,observers,commentators and friends of mine in their forties and fifties who admitted they were confused by all the conflicting arguments so what chance does a 16 year old have. Do we not though have this age related split on all elections and it can be broken down to Gender, location,class,occupation,wealth,income etc so that in any vote these factors all play a part. There were older people who did vote to remain, my 83 year old aunt did and I have friends in their fifties who did likewise and I am sure there were many young voters who voted Brexit but were they or my Aunt in the minority and were they the exception that proved the rule. I think the one big lesson from all this is in the future if any Government is thinking of a referendum and losing it is not an option either they will not have one or will have a two thirds change rule so that any change has to be with the consent of the over whelming majority.

  4. According to the Ashcroft polls on the day it was a 60/40 split for leave amongst the over 65’s. While that is a handy majority it is not what it has been portrayed as. With regards to young people, they need to turn out to influence elections, they didn’t and for every politically engaged youngster there were 2-3 who didn’t give a monkeys. Paul you are quite right this will be the last referendum we are likely to see, the others rare as they were had all delivered the “right” result.

    • Hi Rob thanks for that statistic and the reference to the Ashcroft polls .I see he interviewed 12,369 people after they had voted on the day and came up with these stats. “Nearly three quarters (73%) of 18 to 24 year-olds voted to remain, falling to under two thirds (62%) among 25-34s. A majority of those aged over 45 voted to leave, rising to 60% of those aged 65 or over. Most people with children aged ten or under voted to remain; most of those with children aged 11 or older voted to leave. There are some interesting other stats see link http://lordashcroftpolls.com/2016/06/how-the-united-kingdom-voted-and-why/

      • That’s a good little site Paul. Also interesting was the sky poll done to estimate voter turnout by age which showed that the 18-24 age group only had a 36% turnout compared to 83% for over 65s. Yougov did a poll in mid May that found a third of 18-30 year olds had not been following the debate and one in ten had been actively avoiding it.

  5. Stacey McGill | 6th July 2016 at 5:48 am | Reply

    Listening to the over-reactions of the Remain camp after the vote didn’t go their way reminds me of the words Senna the Soothsayer was wont to say:”Woe! Woe! And thrice Woe!”
    Titter ye not!

  6. I’m in favour of people voting for what they want rather than what they feel other people deserve to have. Otherwise I fear we might end up with an outcome swamped by proxy votes. On the other hand, I’m sure there are people who genuinely want to sacrificing their own personal preferences for a greater good and for the good of their children and grandchildren. Which means it would be unfair to describe the truly unselfish vote as a proxy vote. Which is just as well as there is nothing we can do about it. It is impossible, short of a Pentathol-aided depth interview, to differentiate between a Champagne Socialist and a comfortably-off Socialist who genuinely wants to improve equality of opportunity and redistribute personal or corporate wealth that has reached a level of unacceptable and unnecessary excess.

    That said, I don’t have any problem with NOT lowering the age eligibility to vote. If there is one thing worse than “proxy” voting in the way I have described, it is voting which is ignorant, ill-considered, myopic, selfish or egocentric. At least with proxy voting the outcome is, as best, towards a greater good, at worst, too idealistic. With the other kind, the outcome is at best, idiocy, at worst, the ugly face of capitalism or collectivism..

    When I listen to teenagers and, heaven help us, university students, it is quite depressing to learn the reasons why they vote the way they do. Lower the voting age-eligibility will only make it more depressing. One fine day we might devise a questionnaire which will screen out those who score too low to gain entitlement to vote. On the face of it, such a measure would be an affront to democracy. Yet when elected government sets the age of voting eligibility that too could be argued as undemocratic in that its purpose is to act as a rough screening of assumed entitlement to vote, which is unfair to young people who may have far greater intelligence that adult Neanderthals.

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