Left-wing Remainers – like the rest of us – should respect older voters, not attack them
BY ALICIA KEARNS
Last week a poll was published in which almost half of young adults said that the over 70s should be banned from voting on our country’s future because they may not live through the consequences of their decisions.
Writing this, I’m forced to pause by just how grotesquely affronted I am by this view. It is anathema to all my values.
Sadly, this poll is not a one-off. A while back I took part in a debate with some students where participants asked me whether I agreed with them that those older than 65 should have no right to vote in elections, and most certainly not referendums that “will not affect them”. It was the first time I had come across this argument, but assumed it was an outlier – evidently not.
As I told them then, I reject this view with every fibre of my being.
Firstly, who are this homogenous group “the over 65s”? They’re nurses who spent years working in our NHS, business owners who’ve created jobs for young people, farmers who worked seven days a week to feed our nation, and scientists who changed how we think about the world around us. They’re you and me in a few decades, they’re our parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Would you deny these people are informed enough to have a say on what is best for our country? Would you have the audacity to tell your grandparent that you intended to strip them of one of the most important aspects of their citizenship? They’re individuals who have paid their taxes, created the society we live in, often fought for our country, and funded the education of those now saying they deserve no suffrage.
The next question I posed to these students is at what age does the limit kick in? Because at 65 you can live for another 40 years, “no, no” they replied, “maybe 85”. Proponents of this argument seem unable to agree on how many years it’s acceptable for members of our society to be disenfranchised for, to have no say in their communities despite having committed no crime but the natural ageing process. So does this argument extend to include individuals with terminal diseases? And if you live long enough to see through the Parliamentary term or impact of the referendum in question do you receive compensation for having been mistakenly stripped of your vote?
Prejudice against older people is unacceptable, and these views feed the isolation that many older people experience. I believe that this specific debate is a reaction to the decision to leave the European Union, for which older people largely voted. Disagreeing with someone’s political beliefs (I am a Brexiteer and I am certainly not old), does not give you the right to strip them of their right to participate in democracy. It is rare that I’ll call out an opinion as offensive, but anyone promoting this idea should be ashamed of themselves. It is illiberal, callous and frankly authoritarian.
Older people enrich our society with their wisdom and experience, we should be grateful for it and listen up. When they vote they apply their knowledge to help build a better future for those who come after them.
My answer is simple: learn some respect.
Alicia Kearns works in Counter-Terrorism & National Security. Follow her on twitter: @aliciakearns