Vince Cable Joins The Anti-Brexit War On The Elderly

Vince Cable - Brexit

Remainers love to claim that the EU referendum “divided Britain”. But many prominent Remainers are perfectly happy to stoke divisions of their own in order to thwart Brexit

While any measured, rational human being ought to be immediately capable of seeing through YouGov’s recent flawed opinion poll – which was constructed to give the misleading impression of elderly Brexit voters being selfish extremists – new LibDem leader Vince Cable is happy to stoke intergenerational conflict in order to feed his desperate pro-EU confirmation bias.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday (surprising enough in itself, considering most bien-pensant elites view that paper as little more than a fascist propaganda newsletter), Cable moans and wails about how the older generations have supposedly “shafted the young”.

Cable writes:

The Remain argument about economic damage is now largely accepted. Mounting evidence of a slowing economy and rising inflation give substance to earlier warnings. The issue has become one of how to minimise or postpone the damage. And instead of countering the arguments, more and more Brexiteers are embracing economic pain as a price worth paying for ‘taking back control’: almost as a badge of honour.

This attitude has reached worrying proportions. Press stories refer to ‘martyrs for Brexit’ based on a YouGov survey suggesting 61 per cent of the public would accept ‘significant damage to the economy’ from Brexit and 39 per cent ‘don’t mind losing their job’. These figures seem wildly implausible.

I don’t encounter people running around saying ‘please make me poorer’ or ‘please sack me’. These figures are also difficult to reconcile with polling which shows 66 per cent of voters wanting to remain inside the single market.

Of course, as I explained at length in my response to an equally idiotic piece in the New Statesman, there is in fact no contradiction here. It has nothing to do with being a “martyr”, or acting irrationally against one’s economic self interest. Rather, elderly voters simply understand that there are other motivations and considerations besides short term economic gain.

Having grown up in the post-war years and through the Cold War, older voters tend to appreciate the value of democracy and self-determination more than young voters who have never faced existential threat and for whom the EU has been an ever-present reality and an unquestioned positive force. And Vince Cable probably knows this full well, but it suits his purposes to portray those with differing political opinions as somehow unhinged or even malevolent.

Ironically, immediately after impugning the motives and morals of older Brexit voters, Vince Cable then goes on to make a plea for tolerance and mutual respect:

But the last thing the UK needs is further polarisation. There is already more than enough bad-mouthing of opponents and questioning of the patriotism of those who criticise the Government.

The gall of these establishment EU-defenders is absolutely off the charts. Where once a senior politician might have felt a degree of shame that would have prevented him from contradicting himself so completely in an Op-Ed, Cable does so proudly, fully expecting not to be picked up on it. This is how little establishment centrist politicians think of voters and their capacity to understand political or rhetorical arguments. But it is also a sign of the desperation in the Remain camp, as the dream of thwarting Brexit altogether recedes further and further into the distance.

And it gets worse:

To describe such masochism as ‘martyrdom’ is dangerous. We haven’t yet heard about ‘Brexit jihadis’ but there is an undercurrent of violence in the language which is troubling. We have already had the most fervent of Brexiteers, such as Nigel Farage, warning of civil unrest if the ‘will of the people’ is frustrated.

Brexiteers may well be frustrated since the practical difficulties of Brexit, as well as the costs, could result in Brexit never happening.

This is a clever little construction of Cable’s, writing that we haven’t yet heard about “Brexit jihadis” while simultaneously inserting what he clearly hopes will become the Left’s new insult of choice into the public discourse. Let’s be clear – the leader of the Liberal Democrats, that party which considers itself so rational and pragmatic, has just compared Brexiteers who dared to weigh considerations other than economic gain when voting in the EU referendum to jihadis. To murderous Islamist terrorists who maim and kill.

At what point do we stand up to the establishment’s collective hissy fit over Brexit? At what point do decent people refuse to be thus insulted by what Tim Montgomerie called the very “greybeards” who only recently urged further EU integration and the Euro on us even as these failing policies devastated the younger generation, particularly in southern Europe?

That’s not to say that Vince Cable is wrong in many of his warnings about Brexit. In many ways he is right to warn about the implausibility of hammering out a bespoke deal with the EU by 2019, and to urge a slower, managed transition which maintains current access to the EEA. But all of these sensible warnings are completely overshadowed by the overwrought, flowery language suggesting that Britain’s grey-haired voters are supposedly full of hatred and malice towards the children that they raised.

Are the older generations completely innocent? Of course not. Valid arguments can be made that they have been too sheltered from “austerity” and the consequences of the Great Recession thanks to universal benefits and the “triple lock” on pensions. And certainly, as a demographic with a high propensity to vote, the retiree lobby has been very successful in seeing their interests turned into government policy.

But Vince Cable’s over-the-top attack on older voters immediately turns them back into sympathetic characters, and only makes it harder to question the privileges that they have accrued through successive government policy. Comparing decent people who have worked their whole lives and done so much to build the country in which we live today to radical Islamist terrorists is so heinous, so wildly excessive, that sensible discussion becomes impossible.

This kind of behaviour might be just about acceptable from someone like me – a relatively unknown political blogger perhaps looking to make a splash by saying something outrageous or provocative (see Abi Wilkinson’s clickbait call for a 100% inheritance tax in the Guardian). But Vince Cable is not an obscure political commentator. He is leader of the Liberal Democrats, a political party which still purports to be taken seriously.

In reality, most people vote both for reasons of self interest and for the perceived good of society. The truth about the elderly Brexit vote probably lies between Brendan O’Neill’s lionisation of these voters and Vince Cable’s haughty dismissal.

O’Neill has been effusive in his praise:

I find it deeply inspiring, moving even, that my fellow Brexiteers are willing to have it rough in the name of democracy, in the name of bringing law-making back to where every progressive of the modern, Enlightened era believed it should be: in the nation, under a people’s oversight.

I straight up got a lump in my throat when I read the bit of the YouGov research that says many Leave voters would even be okay with losing their own jobs, or seeing a family member lose a job, in the name of Brexit. Thirty-nine per cent said such personal hardship would be a price worth paying, against 38 per cent who said it wouldn’t be. Now that’s devotion. That’s idealism. And if it seems alien to us, that only goes to show what a flat, grey political era we live in.

Indeed, the rather elitist alarm that has greeted the revelation that people are willing to suffer for their democratic ideals sums up what a baleful influence technocracy has had on our political imagination. In the technocratic era, when politics has been drained of big ideas and reduced to a box-ticking exercise that is all about managing society, its inhabitants and their aspirations, political passion can seem threatening. Strong feelings, democratic devotion, self-sacrifice – these have become foreign bodies in a time when politics is about making things chug along as uncontroversially as possible. To the technocrat, to the EU suit who drafts laws far from the madding demos, the utterance ‘I am willing to go through hardship for what I believe in’ seems perverse. It’s disruptive. It is because we inhabit such a beige world of spun, small politics that the willingness of us Brexiteers to suffer for our beliefs can look like ‘extremism’.

I get where O’Neill is coming from, even though I think he goes a little too far, reading something that both he and I desperately want to see (a return to conviction politics and commitment to ideology rather than fudged centrist compromise) into a vote whose motivations were more nuanced than either extreme.

In truth, elderly Brexit voters are neither selfless heroes nor foaming-at-the-mouth jihadists. But as far as the media is concerned, the narrative about older voters being selfish is too convenient to ignore. Unfortunately it reveals a gulf of misunderstanding, as Vince Cable makes clear:

The old have comprehensively shafted the young. And the old have had the last word about Brexit, imposing a world view coloured by nostalgia for an imperial past on a younger generation much more comfortable with modern Europe.

If I had a pound for every time some sanctimonious Remainer airily asserted that Brexit was motivated by “nostalgia for an imperial past” then I would never need to work again. In reality, the Lord Ashcroft poll taken in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum clearly showed that the principle motivating factor for Leave voters was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”. Perhaps this lacks nuance and an understanding of modern day interdependence in the regulatory environment, but it is also a clear and unambiguous call for the same kind of autonomy enjoyed by countries far smaller than ours in terms of GDP such as Australia, Canada or Korea. This is by no means unreasonable, and cannot be fairly caricatured as some kind of imperial nostalgia.

So why pretend that it is? Either Vince Cable is so full of self-hatred for his own country and its history that he believes that our dissolution as an independent nation state into an increasingly federal EU is somehow appropriate “payback” for our transgressions in the days of empire, or he knows full well that the Brexit vote was not motivated by imperial nostalgia but simply finds this to be a convenient trope with which to whip up his own supporters.

For now I will do Vince Cable the courtesy of assuming the latter rather than the former – that he is in fact not a self-hating Brit, but rather just a cynical old politician like so many others. But the longer this tantrum against anyone and everyone who voted for Brexit goes on, the harder it becomes to assume good faith on the part of the furious Remainers.

At some point the Vince Cables of this world have to either engage with the real substance of Brexiteer arguments, attitudes and motivations, or else just admit that they don’t care – that they simply feel blind, unthinking hatred towards those who disagree with them and have no interest in rational discussion.

It might actually prove quite cathartic; rather than having to make increasingly ludicrous arguments that people voted for Brexit somehow want to bring back the Empire, Vince Cable and his ilk could simply have their Two Minutes Hate every day and be satisfied.

 

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Brexit Denial Watch, Part 1 – Sarah Olney, The Liberal Democrats’ Special Secret Weapon

Slightly different to the Brexit Catastrophisation Watch series, these Brexit Denial Watch posts will focus on public figures of power and influence who marshal Olympian levels of denial to pretend to themselves and others that the British people did not really vote for Brexit, and that the referendum result can and should be overturned

Let’s all take a moment to savour the defeat of former Conservative MP for Richmond Park, Zac Goldsmith, in the by-election which he foolishly triggered after following through on his word to flounce out of the Conservative Party if the government finally took its boot of the neck of the aviation industry and authorised the expansion of London’s Heathrow airport.

Zac is a wishy-washy watercolour impression of a man, a Conservative In Name Only, Crown Prince of the NIMBYs, a snarling anti-aviation zealot and an utterly useless London mayoral candidate. British politics will miss his early departure like I missed my inflamed appendix after the Royal Free Hospital scooped it out. (How’s that one, Matthew Parris?)

But naturally, the Liberal Democrats’ surprising win in Richmond Park is being spun by a gleeful party as rather more than it is. One can understand the jubilation of a party reduced from being junior coalition partner to a pathetic rump of eight MPs at being able to add another warm body to their number, but they go too far when they claim that 20,000 people in leafy Richmond is such a representative sample of Britain that a by-election result (which often go against the government of the day) can be safely interpreted as the British public “changing their minds” about Brexit.

And this is exactly what the LibDems, in their arrogance, are now claiming. The Spectator reports:

Goldsmith hoped to focus on airport expansion and his decision to fulfil his promise to constituents to stand down if it was given the green light. But the Lib Dems had other ideas and made it about the EU. The Richmond borough voted heavily to remain — at 69/31 — and the Lib Dem campaign — which was also anti-Heathrow — focused on this. They highlighted Goldsmith’s support for Brexit and reached out to Remain voters — with Olney even promising to vote down Article 50 in the Commons, if elected.

In her acceptance speech, Olney said voters had ‘sent a shockwave through this Conservative Brexit government’ while Tim Farron made the bold claim that if this were a general election the ‘Conservatives would lose dozens of seats to the Liberal Democrats – and their majority with it’. Now this is jumping the gun a bit, and as Fraser notes, a lot of the result can be put down to the Lib Dem’s effective ground game where Goldsmith just didn’t seem to have one. But it can’t be denied that the Lib Dem strategy is working. In the Witney by-election, the party increased its votes share from 7pc to 30pc. They have clearly defined themselves as the party of Remain and in constituencies that voted to stay in the EU this message is resonating.

The newly-elected MP herself was even more explicit on Sky News:

Olney told Sky News that ‘it does look now as if we can have a vote in Parliament that might override the referendum – and I will, obviously, be voting to Remain because that is always what I have believed’.

This is hilarious. Furious, tantrum-throwing Remainers have been complaining since the small hours of 24 June that the 52% of people who put their cross in the box voting to leave the European Union were in fact doing anything other than seriously voting for Brexit. It was just a cry of dissatisfaction, we were told. It’s all about immigration, or globalisation, or multiculturalism, and if only politicians say enough platitudinous things to placate public feeling on those issues then there will be no need to go ahead and trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, setting in motion the wheels of our departure.

And yet despite 17 million British voters casting their ballots to leave the European Union when the referendum question was both crystal clear and painstakingly discussed in advance (and the consequences clearly printed on the pro-Remain government propaganda sent to every household during the campaign), now we are supposed to believe that this vote was actually not a mandate or instruction to take Britain out of the European Union, while a single solitary by-election in leafy, pro-EU west London in which voters were explicitly choosing who to represent them in Parliament until the next general election, not casting a single-issue decision about Brexit is enough to cancel the whole thing.

Do these people hear just how arrogant they sound, and just how plain their attempts to game the system to their own advantage appear now that the curtain has been pulled back and the desperation of the moment has forced them to dispense with their usual subterfuge?

Besides, who knows whether the voters of Richmond Park really do want Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney as their new MP? As Brendan O’Neill put it on Facebook:

Anti-Brexit Lib Dem wins by-election in Richmond. But how can we be sure the people of Richmond really knew what they were voting for? Maybe they’re “low information”. Maybe they were made poisonously anti-Brexit by Guardian and Economist propaganda. Maybe they’re so hooked on Newsnight and Radio 4 that they can no longer think for themselves. Perhaps they were brainwashed by the demagogues Tony Blair and Richard Branson. Can we really trust such people to make big, important decisions like who should sit in parliament? We need a second vote. Give them another chance to get it right. The country must be saved from their ignorance.

Since the election, alarming new evidence has come to light – in the form of a car crash interview with Julia Hartley-Brewer on LBC radio, in which Sarah Olney jabbered like a madwoman, couldn’t answer a single question about Brexit and eventually panicked and had to be rescued by her spokesman after less than four minutes on air – which suggests that the people of Richmond Park may have unwittingly elected a complete and utter cretin to be their representative in Parliament for the next three and a half years.

Since the people of Richmond Park thought they were electing a competent  human being with a basic grasp of the issues rather than a flailing dilettante who cracks under the immense psychological pressure of a casual interview on morning radio, clearly they did not have all the facts. Clearly they were misled. Clearly they need another opportunity to consider their response in the light of this new information.

Isn’t that what we keep hearing about that idiotic “£350 million for the NHS” Vote Leave NHS bus?

 

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