With 61% of voters aged 65 plus voting in favour of Britain’s departure from the European Union, and 73% of those aged 18-24 voting to Remain, the stark generational divide emerging from British politics has never been so obvious. But what steps can today’s politicians take to heal this ever-growing divide? Is a Brexit that simply “works for all” enough?
Division of opinions by demographic is no new phenomena. Nor is division by political opinion for that matter, for all one has to do is take the issue of immigration to see how a person’s age can dictate their opinion, or attitude, towards a particular issue. A 2011 report by Oxford University’s Migrant Observatory, for example, showed over 70% of those aged 50 plus were in favour of reducing immigration by “a lot”, compared to only 50% of those aged 16-29.
But despite this gaping hole in public opinion, the tension and anger harboured by those who feel their future has been disproportionately decided for them cannot be side-lined.
The root cause of this feeling lies in the EU Referendum campaign, described by many as the most bitterly divisive event in modern political history. The trails of lies, fake news and broken promises have resonated particularly hard with millennials, many of whom who feel their once bright futures have been unduly tarnished by grandparents and librarians all over the country.
This increase in vast political disillusionment presents a new, fresh challenge to our politicians of the day. What steps can they take to engage the apathetic, moderate the venerable and heal this far-reaching demarcate?
Step one? Listen. Too often do governments assume they know what’s best for the young people in our society, and it’s this ‘one size fits all’ approach that only further disillusions those losing faith in our modern political system. In order to bridge this broadening divide, politicians must first hear and emphasise with the aches, pains and worries of these age groups, some of whom see themselves being dragged out of the EU against their will.
Step two? Acknowledge. It is imperative that our politicians grasp the general consensus of opinion amongst us, and this must play a leading role in any future negotiations. Brexit is the most important political event in a century – the vote on which caused the highest turnout in the House of Lords since 1831 – and as such the priorities of this government must lie with the future. The futures of the millions of millennials which hang in the balance. Party-political point scoring, and any notion of a post-Brexit Brussels-enforced punishment on Britain, must take a back-seat to the country’s priorities as a guiding light in a new era of British history.
Step three? Act. Only after listening and acknowledging the diverse spectrum of opinion can politicians come close to comprehending the meaning of ‘national interest’. Through engaging all demographics, reaching out to apathetic voters, and recognising the issues left in the wake of the referendum, they can begin to unite broken communities, disputing families and a divided country.
In order to bridge the generational split emerging post-Brexit, politicians must formulate a Brexit plan that not only works for everyone, but truly seeks to address the best interests of all demographics in the United Kingdom. Fail to do this, and Brexit will become a modern scapegoat for a bitterly divided country.