image by David Holt, via Flickr (licence CC 2.0)
There is a meme going around on social media at the minute with a picture of young protestors outside Whitehall in London, angry that 72% of the British electorate had decided, with a 52 per cent majority, to leave the European Union. The quote said, ‘if you think that the older generations have stolen your future…’ then below other a second picture ‘then you have haven’t seen this.’ This second image is of young men throwing themselves into a barrage of bullets into no man’s land at the Battle of the Somme in World War One. Whilst you may think that there is a valid a point in this image, it is fundamentally wrong, because they are targeting the wrong generation.
I worked as a counting agent at the European Referendum count, and I, as a Remain-er, was insuring, with a ‘leaver,’ that the votes were being sorted into the right columns. People wore their badges, pledging their allegiants to their side. I did not do this. I wore skinny jeans, a CEO,000,000 the shirt and a snapback. People kind of knew where I stood politically because of my age. Well, not knew, but had a good idea. And I could tell were everyone stood. All but one of the Leave campaigners was a white, male, over 60 (I think) and slightly overweight person. The one outstanding Leaver was exactly the same, but female.
No Leave campaigner was in their eighties or older. None were wearing any form of military uniform or acclimations. And none were of a different ethnicity whose family have fought for our freedoms post WW1.
Before anyone says, ‘well how the hell do you know?! Did you speak to every leave voter?!’ well no, of course not. But I did talk to all the campaigners at that leave vote. In their defense, none of them brought up either of the World Wars as reasons for leaving, though I’m sure some people have done, but again still not the point. This meme is wrong. Furthermore, it suggests that young people should not be angry that we’ve left the EU.
Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, stated on Question Time that Remain-ers do have the right to keep making the argument. Just because we elect a government, it doesn’t mean that the rest of us who may think differently can’t say anything for five years. That’s my first gripe.
My second is that that generation in the meme did not vote for us to leave the EU, well at least not in large enough numbers that tipped us over the edge of leaving. Simply because of maths. That battle was a hundred years ago. Some of the youngest at the Somme were 12 or 13. But even that means that anyone who fought at the Somme would now be at least a hundred and eleven years old, and quite frankly, there’s not that many hundred and eleven years old left.
My third and final gripe is the fact that this, my, our generation (Between the ages of 18-35) will be the first generation to experience a decline in income and/or living standards and earn less than their parents. The Resolution Foundation discovered that the Millennial Generation (anyone under 35) will earn £8,000 in their twenties than Generation X, people born between 1966 and 1980. Generation X earned 21 per cent more than the post war baby boomer generation. And these generations are the ones claiming that the millennials have it easy with our iPhones and laptops, but our decreasing chances of home ownership and vehicle ownership are taken for granted by our elders.
There are reasons for this. The Resolution Foundation suggest that our inability to build enough housing, social and private, shows our governments difficulties to grasp longevity in society. It is impossible to blame one government or another, because all have been equally crap at it. The second reason has been because of the financial crisis in 2007 and 2008. The mortgage sectors irresponsibility to lend to people over 25 times their annual earnings, unlike for Generation X, who were only leant 4 times their annual income. This did two things; securing sustainable ownership and living within their means.
Debt has been encouraged and grown with the Millennials. Linking into the mortgages, many new drivers can afford a brand new car, with insurances and tax on a ‘just add fuel’ plan for anything from £100 a month. Bargain! However, when this deal has the small print of a 10,000 annual mileage limit and ‘you will not own the car’ over 4 years, this £4800 outlay means that young people cannot drive a huge amount, they will not have an asset to sell on, and will need to put more money aside if they wanted to buy a car afterwards. Of course, car dealerships have cottoned on to this to ensure than the cycle of Personal Lease Plans keeps us tied in to non-ownership for potentially lifetimes.
All of a sudden, this generation has got it significantly worse than our predecessors. We will not own anything, we must pay for our education and on average, we will earn less. However, we have been given some privileges. We can travel more freely and probably for less money than our parents. We also have more protection at work than ever before. For example, we cannot be contracted to over 48 hours a week and have 28 protected days of holiday a year. However, our elders decided to help throw this away for us. Don’t get me wrong, there are some longer term potential benefits of being out of the European Union. But, for the time being, young people, including working people, students and the disabled do better us being in the EU than not.
This is why the World War arguments of leaving the EU have been severely misguided. The ageist arguments that have been forced to divide the electorate is cutting. It is also why the young have every right to be angry that they being forced to leave. If only more had voted….