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Sunday, 26 June 2016

Let's blame the old bastards.

Given the amount of propaganda spewed out in the EU referendum campaign, it is hardly surprising that some folk reacted to the result in a way that would more appropriate to, say, an invasion of the earth by hostile aliens. Within our increasingly large over-reaction community, it would appear that losing an election is not something that is considered to be a legitimate part of the democratic process. 
On the morning after the vote –admittedly a difficult time for any losing side- I listened to interviews with Anna Soubry, Caroline Lucas and Tim Farron which would have been quite funny, but only if they had they been scripted as comedic parodies designed to illustrate the attitude of the political class towards the electorate. Each interview was marked by a complete absence of grace, seasoned with a toxic sprinkling of weapons-grade disdain. 

Ms Soubry, a Tory junior minister who has clearly been promoted beyond her abilities, expressed her sheer ‘horror’ at the result, claiming that it was one of the ‘worst days’ in her life. She talked of voters being ‘horrid’ to her when she had been out campaigning in the racist swamplands of the East Midlands (where I understand that lynch mobs still roam the countryside) and claimed that many Leave voters had probably never encountered an immigrant.  
Caroline Lucas of the Greens was ‘devastated’ that her vision of ‘a generous and outward looking country’ committed to ‘making the world a better place’ had been rejected by the electorate. By inference, the Leave side must have been committed to establishing a mean-spirited, inward looking country, determined to make things worse for everyone. Ms Lucas said that we had to ‘find ways to heal our broken democracy’, evidently oblivious to the fact that we had just participated in the most extraordinary democratic exercise. If the result had gone the other way, my guess would be that Ms Lucas wouldn’t have been up for too much healing with the beaten Leave side. Call it a hunch.    

Tim Farron, leader of the Lib-Dems, resorted shamefully to blatant age-ism, claiming that young voters had been ‘betrayed’ by the older electorate. In assuming that all young people had voted Remain, perhaps he had concluded that they would regard the youth unemployment rates across the continent as just a feature of the system. I wonder if anyone has asked the unemployed kids in Spain, Greece and Italy how the EU is working out for them? The corollary of Mr Farron’s line of thinking is that some votes should be worth more than others. Perhaps he’d favour the introduction of a sliding scale for elections. I'd suggest something like this:  

Age group 18 – 30: two votes per person.  
Age group 31 – 45: three votes per person.  
Age group 46 -70: one vote per person.  
Age group 70 and above: These votes could be lumped together. Maybe twenty or thirty of them from like, a nursing home or whatever, could get one vote to represent the views of their group.  

Perhaps it hasn’t occurred to Mr Farron that society is a covenant between those currently living, those who lived before us and those who are yet to be born. The voter in her mid-80s has the same rights as the voter in her teens. That woman in her 80s helped shape the country we now live in, being part of the generation that made the sacrifices necessary to create the free and prosperous world we are lucky enough to inhabit. She will have worked, paid taxes, raised children and grandchildren and –something that ageists don’t seem to understand- she will have thought about the world she wants her children and grandchildren to inherit. Being in her twilight years does not mean that she has no stake in our future, so shame on anyone who is prepared to dismiss her opinion on the basis of age; shame on anyone who is willing to exploit generational differences to bolster their grubby political arguments. 

Rather than look down their nose at people, perhaps professional politicians should have a think about why there was such an anti-establishment vote. There are many reasons why Leave prevailed (personally, I think Eddie Izzard’s hectoring drag act on Question Time might just have tipped the scales), but it is clear that Labour’s abandonment of its core vote was a significant factor. Labour’s old working class voters helped deliver this result and they delivered it because their perception is that ‘progressive’ politics has -for some time- held them in contempt, regarding them as stupid, dangerous, racist and probably a bit smelly, certainly not to be trusted on anything important.

All of the reactive guff about being ‘ashamed’ of the result illustrates, among other things, a failure to understand that in a democratic system, the taxi-driver really does have the same voting rights as the college lecturer. Like a maiden aunt in some Victorian melodrama getting an attack of the vapours at the sight of a swarthy, uncouth gardener, the people who get all giddy and upset about politics red in tooth and claw really need to get over themselves. If you can’t accept that people who don’t see the world the way that you see it can ‘care’ every bit as much as you, then you’ve got a problem; if you believe that someone who doesn’t agree with you is simply ‘misinformed’ by their sources (in a way that you evidently don’t think you have been misinformed by your no-doubt-impeccable sources), then you’ve got a problem.

When you pitch your tent on the moral high ground, you’ll invariably look down on other people, but if you’re inclined to condemn millions of voters as racists, idiots or selfish old fools, then there is something you really ought to know.

That ‘shame’ you feel about the electorate?
It’s your problem, not theirs.

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