Vince Cable is irresponsibly and divisively stirring up generational tensions over Brexit

Vince Cable is irresponsibly and divisively stirring up generational tensions over Brexit

Vince Cable has penned a frankly bizarre opinion piece for the Mail on Sunday, filled with analogies about religious Brexit martyrs and suffused with sanctimony that clearly sought to stir up generational tensions. After reading it, I quickly realised that to Cable’s sect of ultra-Remain polite society, hating old people has become the only socially acceptable prejudice.

This is despite politically-correct culture creating my generation of hypersensitive, entitled and narcissistic youths who actively campaign for so-called ‘safe spaces’ and advocate a clampdown on free speech on university campuses, with students and academics quick to attach an -ism or a -phobia to anything they disagree with or deem to be transphobic, homophobic, sexist, disablist, racist, classist… I could go on. There is one -ism however that they clearly will accept: ageism.

They barely conceal their contempt for the 17.4 million Leave voters – many of whom are working class – who are readily dismissed as being ‘ignorant and uneducated racists’ and have apparently ‘imposed’ a world view of an imperial past onto my generation. Vince Cable wrote:

“The old have comprehensively shafted the young. And the old have had the last word about Brexit, imposing a world view coloured by nostalgia for an imperial past on a younger generation much more comfortable with modern Europe.”

At the same time as Remain voters heavily have criticised the supposedly anti-migrant prejudice and ‘Little England’ mentality of Leave voters, they brazenly flaunt their own repugnant prejudice towards older voters. Shortly after last June’s vote, GQ magazine published a piece advocating “a total ban on anyone of retirement age voting in the EU referendum” while The Guardian published an op-ed calling for we young folk to “take heart in the fact that you’re more than likely part of this optimistic, open-minded gang”.

As one of the supposedly “shafted” 24-year-olds myself, I completely reject the caricature as illustrated by Cable and his ilk of Leave-voting older voters not being ‘optimistic’ or ‘open-minded’ about modern Britain’s future.

My grandfather was born in 1930 and fought as part of the Durham Light Infantry to uphold democracy in anti-communist South Korea in the early 1950s. He spent much of his working life down the pit to provide for his wife and five children, with the severe rheumatoid arthritis and respiratory problems to show for it. On June 23rd 2016 he voted to Leave the European Union, joining all three generations of my immediate family in doing so.


Having risked his life fighting for British values like democracy and the rule of law abroad, it’s quite understandable that my grandfather came to the conclusion that we’ve lost far too much of our sovereignty to Brussels. Indeed, since his grandson was born in 1993, over half of the new laws introduced in the UK have come from the EU (as Nick Clegg once admitted).

It’s quite understandable that my grandfather believes migration to our country is too high, making it harder for young working class people in our part of County Durham to find work. Lord King of Lothbury, the former Bank of England Governor agrees with him: “Because we’ve had very large immigration into the UK, employers in the UK have stopped investing in training unskilled people in Britain,” he told Radio 4’s Today on Saturday. “You can’t blame employers for that because they have no incentive to do so – but it’s not served the interests of unskilled, low-educated people in the UK.”

It’s also quite understandable that, having served in Britain’s armed forces alongside those from the Commonwealth and lived in Britain for 42 years before we joined the EEC, my grandfather believes Britain can get out into the world and make her own way in it through free trade.

Vince Cable and the Liberal Democrats like to talk about creating a Britain that is “open, tolerant and united” yet actively stir up generational tensions in the most irresponsible and dangerously divisive way possible. It’s time for Cable and his cabal of ultra-Remainers to put forward a positive vision of post-Brexit Britain.

They could be actively campaigning for a Britain that scraps passport discrimination which favours an unskilled migrant from, say, Bulgaria over someone with the skills and talent we need from Bangladesh. It shouldn’t be beyond their wit, given that in January this year none other than Vince Cable called for an end to the EU’s free movement, asking: “is unrestricted immigration – albeit from some countries only – desirable?”

They could be ensuring that global Britain gets out and into the world, increasing our trade with developing nations and using our clout to fight for LGBT and female equality across the globe. Or they could be campaigning for opportunities that would benefit younger voters beyond Europe, like Erasmus-style visa-free travel and work schemes in markets around the world which are actually growing, instead of relentlessly focusing on one declining continent of the earth.

Might we see such campaigns from Vince Cable and his party as the Lib Dems accept the referendum result? I’m not holding my breath…