The phrase “have some respect for your elders” used to be often heard. The basic concept was that those who had been around for longer than you might have known a little. Even if you disagreed with them, or thought your view more with the times, it was sensible to pay attention and acknowledge the experience and knowledge that informed the position. The new Liberal Democrat leader should have remembered this.
Sir Vince Cable should have paid heed to this old chestnut before sounding off in his Mail on Sunday piece this weekend. You may have thought, that as member of the group he disparaged, an attempt to understand those with a different view might be expected of the newly elected leader of our third political party. Instead he launched a scattergun attack on those over 65 who voted to leave the EU.
Given the chance I would think many over 65’s, regardless of their voting position, would strongly object to the Liberal Democrat leaders summary of their motives and intentions. In addition the dismissal of their experience and hopes would be vehemently opposed even by those not in his line of fire.
Sir Vince opened his assault with the slur that Brexit voting pensioners “imposed a world view coloured by nostalgia for an imperial past”. Think about that for a moment, basically if you are over 65 and voted to leave you are like the Major from Faulty Towers. However Vince’s calculations are simply wrong. If we take a person who was 70 years of age, on June 23rd 2016, they would have been born in 1946. They would have spent their teens in the “swinging sixties” and, other than possibly Indian independence, they would have no actual memory of the height of the British Empire. Like all those born in the aftermath of WWII they would have grown up in a Europe desperate not to repeat such tragedy and would have seen, and supported, all the post war efforts to cooperate peacefully and join hands with other nations.
Our hypothetical 70-year-old would also have witnessed the struggles of a post war UK and the possible benefits of our EEC membership. By the time of the EU referendum in 1975 they would have been almost 30, working and or a mother. It is likely that they would have seen the Common Market as a good economic opportunity and an extension of the mutual cooperation that had become the post war model.
By the time of their retirement, in or around 2011, they would have witnessed the change in what they voted for, especially post Maastricht in 1992, and have the experience to weigh up the pros and cons of our membership over 40 years. In short our septuagenarian is the ideal voter. He/she has fully experienced the UK in and out of the EU, they have been able to compare what we were promised with what we have and they have managed to weigh the alternatives not only in the light of their own views but also in the context of their families future. Having taken all that into account you can bet that a vote either way was not lightly cast. By dismissing this Vince Cable is cheapening the only voters who were fully informed and were certainly not low information!
Sir Dancelot also implies that the elderly have deliberately “shafted the young”. Putting that in context he is stating that, having weighed up all the above, the old then deliberately chose to damage their own children and grand children as well as those of all their friends and relatives. Would we accept this in any other debate? In allowing Vince’s view we are accepting the over 65 don’t care about the future of the citizens of the UK and their future. All they care about is some idealistic image of a Great Britain and in exchange for this they are deliberately harming others. This is an intolerable assumption. Instead if we accept that those who have grown through a hugely challenging, but ultimately successful, time in the development of their nation, and the world in general, are in a unique position to make a considered, and overall, view in this matter and to cast their vote in the genuine belief that it offers the best chance for the long-term future of the generations that follow them.
Simply look at those, over a certain age, who backed leaving and Cable’s one-dimensional view collapses. Nigel Lawson and David Owen both made much of their political careers whilst staunch Europhiles. Kate Hoey is neither rich nor tory and yet campaigned for Brexit aged 69 and voted aged 70. Newly knighted Sir John Timpson has been a huge success in many areas of life, and was born in 1943, his quiet but principled avocation of leaving was typical of many of his generation.
So, Sir Vince. Instead of “have some respect for your elders” how about you just “have some respect for your peers”.