Angry millennials have been quick to blame Brexit on older voters. We ask three Baby Boomers who bucked the generational trend why they voted to Remain.

Angry millennials have been quick to blame Brexit on older voters. We ask three Baby Boomers who bucked the generational trend why they voted to Remain.

Support for Brexit split sharply down generational lines: the youth voted in and the elderly voted out.

Millennials have interpreted the EU referendum result as inter-generational tyranny: their future opportunities thrown out of the window by their grey-haired, reactionary elders who won’t be alive to suffer the consequences of a decision that could cause damage for decades to come.

But this sense of betrayal has led to a blame game. While 60% of those over 65 voted to leave the European Union, the voices of the huge numbers of elderly voters who voted Remain have been sidelined, and their entire generation has been heaped with scorn.

This anger has brought resentment against the Baby Boomers out of the woodwork – the generation born after WWII and accused of eating up free university education, cheap housing and social spending to leave none for generations who followed.

In our eagerness to dole out retribution, we forget that although three-quarters of young people may have supported staying in, youth turnout was abysmally low. The public outcry for justice and the post-referendum bullying of the elderly could all have been avoided if we’d just got off our arses and made our voices heard at the ballot box.

What we forget, also, is the 40% of elderly voters who voted Remain. The people who don’t fit the image of the stereotypical old-timer, shouting at skateboarders and lamenting the influx of refugees.

So, who are these elderly voters who looked beyond what was sold to them in the right-wing media and voted Remain alongside the youth? Why did they vote against the rest of their generation and how to do they contradict a narrative of young and old at war?

Ray King, 71, Retired Journalist

Ray King - shot by Ellie King

Photo by Ellie King

The failure of British media outlets to offer an equal landscape for political parties to be represented and opinions to be formed leading up to the EU Referendum has been heavily criticised by online communities led by justice-seeking young voters. This is a sentiment shared by Ray King, a retired journalist who worked on The Daily Express for over 30 years. As The Express shifted dramatically to the right, he saw first-hand how mainstream newspapers subvert democratic debate to represent the opinions of a few rich, male media barons.

“It’s a generalisation, but most older people do read newspapers, most younger people do not. This split between remainers and leavers is partially explained by that. The ones relying on the opinions of the newspapers are the old gits like me,” Ray explains. “If people were given the facts fairly, people probably would have voted something different.”

“A lot of ordinary people haven’t got time to analyse everything. You rely on an honest media, and it hasn’t been honest for years. It spouts the opinions of a few very rich men and I don’t think that’s any way to keep the pubic informed.

“Most mainstream newspapers are more inclined to the status quo and the conservative way of thinking. For the short period that Labour was an effective government, they played the press at their own game and they succeeded, but that’s far from the truth now. Corbyn couldn’t get a positive story in the papers now unless it’s a plea from public outcry.”

Ray’s perspective on modern democracy echoes the cries of the cheated youth. Public votes like the EU referendum have reinvigorated the power of the media, which they’ve used to peddle their own political agendas and play favourites with politicians, rather than speaking truth to power.

“A bulk of the population depend on people like Boris to tell them the truth about things in the newspapers. They don’t go to Westminster and see the whites in these politicians eyes.”

Eileen Conn, 74, Founder of Peckham Vision

IMG_8101 - Eileen Conn - Bellenden Res Grp

Photo courtesy of Peckham Vision

Eileen carries the enthusiasm for social justice more than most millennials and claims she’s not the only baby-boomer who fought for a Remain result. “There are more people my age who’re involved in this kind of thing than young people. If it wasn’t for people over 60, civic activity in this country would be very deficient.”

If you’ve ever been to the CLF Art Cafe to indulge in some of London’s authentic vinyl nightlife, enjoyed American Psycho with the London skyline framing the projector screen atop the Bussey Building or even sipped a craft beer in the Rye Wax, you’ll have this woman to thank. The driving force defying the gentrification of South East London has been galvanising local communities and inspiring governments to unlock Peckham’s potential since she moved there 40 years ago.

“Something was happening in our neighbourhood and one of the things I discovered, to my sadness, is the local authority’s reluctance to work with the local community.” explains Eileen, adding that “they should be collaborating with them instead of resisting them.”

Embodying the spirit of community, Eileen is responsible for saving the Bussey Building and Copeland Park after Peckham council looked to turn the site into a tram depot.

“I started investigating that, to my horror, they wanted to demolish everything that was happening there, including housing and offices. We set up a campaign that led to Peckham Vision.”

Peckham Vision is the latest in a number of support groups established by Eileen including the Rye Lane and Station Action Group as well as the Bellenden Residence Group in 2004.

“I see us all as part of a living system, none of us are anything on our own” she explains. “How we do things together is an essential part of what life’s about. We can’t live without good social relationships”

Roger Green, 66, CEO of Birmingham Boys Brigade

Roger Green

Roger’s mantra and his reason for voting for a prosperous future for the younger age bracket is that, “young people aren’t the future, but it is the young people who will shape the future.”

“What does bother me is a lot of young people aren’t taken seriously by the older generation” explains Roger Green, an experienced youth practitioner.

“As you grow older you can’t lose your beliefs, but you can learn from other people and empower them to participate and create their own beliefs,” he says. Roger’s affinity for youth work and unrelenting excitement for the power children hold is what led him to become a part of the Birmingham Boys Brigade, a charity established in 1883.

The charity works with young people aged five to eighteen and gives them a space to practice an inclusive mentality as they’re moulded into future pioneers.

“What’s great about the Boy’s Brigade is that there’s no establishment where children will spend thirteen years. No institution holds you for that long, so this gives us time to create lasting relationships. To see these boys and girls grow up and flourish is a privilege.”

Roger’s selfless work doesn’t stop there though. Roger has kept in contact with most of his previous students and has recently attended the graduation of three alumni of the Boys Brigade.

“It was the longest applause I’d ever heard, it’s truly touching. For young boys and girls it’s about being there. It’s the most important thing.”

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