Chloe Westley is the Campaign Manager of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.
For the last two and a half years, Leave voters have been called every name under the sun. Racist, xenophobic, fascist, far right, uneducated – and many more too horrid to list on this website. Those on the Remain side have experienced abuse as well, which I’ve seen online, and I do my best to call all this out whenever I can. Social media has brought out the worst in us.
The key difference I have observed is that the insults directed at Leave voters have invariably originated from those in positions of power. For most Leave voters, their only means of having their voice heard is by the ballot box. But celebrities, politicians and journalists use their huge platforms to discredit and demean Leave voters in a variety of ways.
This was endurable on the condition that the eventually these attacks would end. It was assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that Britain was on track to leave the EU and eventually those hurling insults would come to accept this new reality and move on with their lives.
But the bullying has intensified. And the latest victim of this vile abuse and blame, the group that is under the most attack from pro-EU groups, are the elderly.
Last week the singer Jamelia echoed calls for the elderly to be banned from the democratic process, because they would not “experience the consequences of that vote” and have “had 50 – 60 years of voting”. Shortly afterwards, a Remain campaign website called ‘Deatherendum’ was brought to my attention on twitter. The website displayed an ongoing tracker of the estimated number of Leave voters who had died since the referendum in 2016, next to an image of a skull and cross bone. The site has subsequently been deleted, but a visual is still available here.
I’ve heard this argument before. This isn’t a fringe opinion or a few loons on twitter. Politicians such as Nick Clegg also suggested there should be a second referendum because of demographic changes, and there are now Remain youth groups dedicated to provoking the resentment of older voters who have ‘stolen their future’.
It’s an awfully simplistic argument, based on loose calculations and estimates, and reliant on the false premise that, as young people become of voting age over time, these now middle-aged voters don’t change their views. And these arguments weren’t made about any previous referendums or elections. It’s just desperate and divisive rhetoric, endorsed by politicians and journalists who should know better.
The representatives of the ‘Our Future Our Choice (OFOC)’ group are perfectly civil and and respectful, but their message is spiteful. Their messaging, and indeed the whole purpose of their group, is to imply that young people’s voices matter more, and that it is their future, not anyone else’s. This questioning of universal suffrage and the implication that certain groups should be disenfranchised from the democratic process has no place in modern Britain.
To those older voters who have to put up with these messages from young people on TV and radio, I can only apologise. These spokespeople do not speak on behalf of my whole generation. However you voted in the referendum, Remain or Leave, your right to vote should be respected, and your contribution to this country valued.
We cannot stand by and allow ageism to become an acceptable form of bigotry. We cannot stand by and allow a small group of anti-democrat groups to call into question the validity of someone’s right to vote based on protected characteristics. The suffrage movement fought for those of all backgrounds to have the vote – regardless of their salary, land ownership and gender. This cannot be called into question for the sake of political gain.
If Remain strategists think it’s appropriate to call for the removal of universal suffrage, or to celebrate the deaths of political opponents, then where does this end? What lengths will these people go to in order to defend the European project? If these campaigners feel it is appropriate to abandon respect for the elderly, respect for democracy, and delight in the misery and death of others, they can no longer claim to fight on the side of decency.