Self-Entitled Young People For Remain

Students for Europe - EU Referendum - Brexit - European Union

The EU’s young cheerleaders have lots to say about their own material self-interest, but fall strangely silent when it comes to democracy

After Abi Wilkinson’s petulant complaint that Leave campaigners attempting to restore British democracy are harming the job prospects of the young, we now have another youthful but clueless voice making the same case.

Presenting Richard Godwin in the Evening Standard:

I just feel European. I’m part of a generation that has had easy access to mainland Europe for both work and play.

I like Penélope Cruz and Daft Punk and tiki-taka and Ingmar Bergman and spaghetti and absinthe and saunas and affordable trains.

As sentimental as it sounds, Europe represents opportunity, cosmopolitanism, modernity, romance, enrichment, adventure to me

Cutting all that off — even symbolically — would feel both spiteful and arbitrary.

Quite why leaving the explicitly political construct of the European Union would mean that Richard Godwin is no longer part of the continent of Penelope Cruz and Daft Punk is never explained – because of course, it wouldn’t. We would be cutting off nothing, symbolically or otherwise, aside from the dead weight of a supranational political organisation which suppresses democracy in a misguided attempt to harmonise 28 distinct European countries into a single, new European state.

But then at least Godwin has the decency to admit that he is being driven primarily by instinct, unlike the hapless Abi Wilkinson who seemed to suggest that the pro-europeanism of the young is based on enlightened consideration while the pro-democracy euroscepticism of older generations is based on selfishness and whimsy (when of course youthful pro-europeanism is almost entirely the product of ignorance and selfishness).

Sadly, this does not stop Godwin from lecturing us about how young people – my generation – have a greater stake in the future:

It should go without saying that the young have more stake in the future but it’s also contrary to electoral logic. Only 34 per cent of over-65s are in favour of remaining, there are more of them, and they’re more likely to vote.

It means that young people end up in a death spiral, defeated by their own disillusionment. But my hunch is that the only way to change that is with an appeal to hearts rather than heads. Shouldn’t we always aspire to act together rather than alone?

Apparently Godwin’s only concern for the future is that he has the maximum chance of living in a big house with lots of shiny consumer goods to distract him from the fact that he no longer lives in a democracy, has no influence over the decisions which affect his life and has no way of removing the people who make all the key decisions.

In other words, Richard Godwin, like Abi Wilkinson, is thinking primarily as a consumer. Material considerations (job, house, iPhones) consume his every thought – at no point in his paean to the European Union did he even mention democracy or self-determination, or acknowledge any of the many and growing flaws in the EU’s governance.

And of course despite the scaremongering of the Remain campaign, there is no evidence to suggest that Britain would face economic ruin by leaving the EU – and every reason to believe that staying in the EU only perpetuates a discredited, anachronistic model of regional protectionism rather than the global regulation and removal of non-tariff trade barriers that are really needed to unleash global trade and unleash real prosperity.

But Godwin wouldn’t know about any of that, because he is too busy eating spaghetti, watching Penelope Cruz movies and congratulating himself for being such an enlightened, post-national, European citizen. He doesn’t care about the history, traditions or culture of the country which gave him life and liberty – or if he does, they are very much secondary thoughts compared to the ignorant and false assumption that he will no longer be able to work and play in Europe if we become an independent, self-governing country again.

Apparently Richard Godwin is happy to behave and be seen as a selfish consumer first and foremost, rather than an engaged citizen whose thoughts extend beyond his own narrow interest. And that’s actually fine. I hope that more Richard Godwins and Abi Wilkinsons come crawling out of the woodwork as this EU referendum campaign goes on.

Because every new spoilt millennial who comes blinking from their parents’ basement to complain that the evil Leave campaign is threatening their gilded future serves to prove that this campaign is about principled citizenship versus naked self interest.

Very few people are covering themselves in glory in this EU referendum campaign. But the European Union’s youthful cheerleaders from Generation Me Me Me are clearly intent on doing everything they can to make young people look as bad as possible.


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9 thoughts on “Self-Entitled Young People For Remain

  1. Emma April 6, 2016 / 1:13 PM

    “If this is going to be the reaction from Leave then you do have a problem.”

    If that is going to be the reaction from ‘Remain’ [sic] then you really do have a very significant problem yourselves.

    Your response shows that you either haven’t understood the points being made, either by people who wish to leave the EU or by the author of the original piece, or that you *have* understood the points but prefer to set up a few straw men arguments instead of deal with the points as they stand, and the subject matter.

    You haven’t connected your grandparents’ experiences with your present reality yet. Their intergenerational passing down of lessons learned, but now lost, is invaluable.

    If the EU fits your idea of democracy and your idea of sound economic policies, then good luck to you – you’ll need it.


  2. WHS April 3, 2016 / 7:25 PM

    If this is going to be the reaction from Leave then you do have a problem.

    Your argument, if I read it right, centres around democracy. But most people do not see a Manichaean choice between a wonderful world of British people influencing British law on one hand, and a tyranny, where we are all slaves of an unelected Brussels bureaucratic corps and British politics is junk on the other.

    We watched the General Election last year and the fuss around that. We watched Corbyn’s election and so much fuss over that. If Corbyn’s election was merely to be chosen to be the one who sits on the Speaker’s left in a pantomime farce while the faceless unelected get on with setting British policy from Brussels, why the fuss? If the General Election was just so David Cameron could sit on the Speaker’s right rather than his left in a meaningless charade, why the fuss?

    If the vast majority of people instead accept that we have a functioning democracy within the EU, and we set the overwhelming majority of our laws, policies and political priorities from Westminster, then you have a problem.

    It also sits ill for a baby boomer generation that is largely for Out and which had a very easy ride to tell us ‘democracy’ is more important than material matters. My own grandparents tell me stories of jacking in a job in the 50s on a Friday evening, because you didn’t like the boss, and walking into another job on the Monday morning. When they bought their house, they put the equivalent of a month’s salary down as deposit and paid their mortgage off easily. Now I am 27 and am renting, having to share a flat with a complete stranger, and am nowhere near putting down any deposit.

    If the answer to that is to laugh it off as mere materialism and offer ‘democracy’ as the alternative, then you have a problem.


    • Samuel Hooper April 3, 2016 / 7:45 PM

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I will happily concede that it is not a binary option. But what spurred me to write the piece was a couple of articles (the Abi Wilkinson and Richard Godwin pieces) which were very happy to suggest that this was a battle between young people who represent “the future” and greedy, selfish old people who were voting purely out of self interest. Not sure if you have read the pieces – I encourage you to do so if you have not, and wonder whether these are the people who should be the spokespeople for our generation.

      Yes, this is an age of anxiety. Just as the boomer generation seriously worried about nuclear annihilation, so we worry about job security and career prospects. We are not a uniquely benighted generation, though there are many ways which our politics currently favours older voters (many of which this blog speaks out against – like housing policy).

      I don’t laugh off the Remainers of my generation as being completely materialistic as opposed to older, wiser people. But to the extent that they think like Wilkinson and Godwin, they are doing so out of what they see as their economic self interest (and it’s highly debatable that they are right – many believe that the EU is an economic dead weight).

      I completely concur with the points you make about the problems and anxieties faced by our generation – I am facing many of them myself. But when people claiming to represent my generation write paeans to the EU which are completely about Me Me Me and don’t even bother to so much as mention democracy then I will absolutely take them to task for it. Because they make our generation look vacuous, grasping and selfish.


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