Young versus old, new divide in Brexit Britain

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-07 00:49:48|Editor: Song Lifang
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LONDON, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) -- Britain has been dominated for years by a so-called "north-south divide", but a leading politician opened up a new frontier Sunday, creating a "young-old" divide.

Sir Vince Cable, the recently elected leader of the minority Liberal Democrat party, described British pensioners who backed Brexit of being "self-declared martyrs" accusing the old of comprehensively shafting the young.

Cable cited figures showing that in last year's European Union referendum the vast majority of young people voted to remain in the bloc, but the majority older people backed leaving.

Cable's comment, which appeared in an article he wrote in the Mail on Sunday newspaper, have provoked a war of words on social media sites, with many people attacking the 74-year old veteran politician who served as Business Secretary in the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government.

Cable expressed a concern that the self-declared martyrs may be planning to sacrifice other people rather than themselves.

He said: "It is striking that the martyrs appear predominantly elderly. This is unsurprising since 64 percent of over-65s voted Brexit in the referendum and 71 percent of under-25s voted Remain.

"In the campaign, I was struck by the heavily remain sentiment in colleges and schools and the heavily Brexit mood of church-hall meetings packed with retired people.

"The martyrdom of the old comes cheap, since few have jobs to lose. And even if the country were to become poorer, their living standards are largely protected by the 'triple lock' on the state pension and many can rely on occupational, final salary, pensions which are closed to younger people."

And the old, said Cable, have had the last word about Brexit, imposing a world view colored by nostalgia for an imperial past on a younger generation who are much more comfortable with a modern Europe.

Cable said when he joined the Coalition Cabinet in 2010, "we took pride in the triple lock to banish the scourge of pensioner poverty".

But one of its unintended consequences has been a growing rift between generations, said Cable adding that British pensioners have suffered relatively little from the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Labour MP, Frank Field, chairman of the parliamentary Pensions Select Committee accused Cable of patronising older voters.

Field told the Sunday Telegraph: "Not only is he patronising he is undermining his own base because he must have been elected by older voters.

"Should the minority in Twickenham (Cable's constituency) who voted against him now have the right to a new vote? Here we see the birth of Britain's Donald Trump to lead the Remainers."

Cable claimed in his article that more Brexiteers are embracing economic pain as a price worth paying for 'taking back control', almost as a badge of honour.

"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 (former leader of UKIP) warning of civil unrest if the will of the people is frustrated," said Cable.

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