We saw it with Brexit and we saw it with numerous general elections. There is a large generational divide in British politics. That isn’t simply my opinion but rather the findings of poling company ICM. Labour are outperforming the Tories by almost 5:1 amongst 18-24 year olds, who see Jeremy Corbyns transformational manifesto as a beacon of hope for the future. Obviously, it goes without saying that in order to win this election Labour will need the votes of the younger generation.
Although the Tories Dickensian dementia Tax policy of asset stripping the family homes of elderly people for the ‘crime’ of getting dementia or Alzheimer’s, may have caused some older voters to be put off the Conservatives, the over 65s are still going to come out in force to vote for the party that plans to strip them of their winter fuel allowance, scrap the triple lock on pensions and assest strip their houses.
It’s unbelievable that so many millions of pensioners are not only intent on voting to impoverish themselves but to allow the Tories to trash the aspiration of their grandchildren by gutting education funding, keeping exploitative zero hour contracts, enforcing the highest tuition fees of anywhere in the world, underfunding vitally needed infustructure, and gutting public services in order to fund their tax cuts for corporations and the super-rich!
Why Is this the Case?
Obviously I am generalising a bit here, it is clear that not all pensioners believe in voting for a government that is going to make life worse for themselves and the younger generations. Some of them are smart and turned on enough to see through the Tory propaganda that they are bombarded with on a regular basis. However, there are reasons why many of them do and will:
One of the main reasons is that many older people have no access to social media or the internet and are thus likely to more susceptible to being told lies by one or a few of the highly biased Newspapers like the Telegraph or the Sun. Independent media sites like Novara Media simply have no way to reach the large pensioners. Many of them won’t even get a chance to find out about the policy pledges in manifestos, other than the carefully selected ones that appear on television or in the newspapers. While we often talk of echo chambers in terms of the confirmation bias that appears on Twitter or Facebook (which is admittedly a problem), they are certainly not suffering a worse echo chamber problem than those who rely entirely on mainstream media.
There are of course other reasons why older people are more likely that not to vote Tory. There is no polite way to say this, but the older people get, the more gullible and open to manipulation they become. I am not just presuming this, the Online Privacy Foundation carried out some interesting research into exactly this kind of political psychology, during the EU referendum. One of the most interesting results was that Brexit voters are more susceptible to right wing authoritarianism than remain voters, but that older leaders are also more attracted to the right wing tyrant style of leadership then younger voters. When we are talking about authoritarianism, you don’t get much more authoritarian in the British sense than Theresa May. Yes, Margret Thatcher crushed entire communities in pursuit of her hard right economic agenda, but she never openly fantasised about trashing the European Convention of Human Rights.
Another thing that the research shows is that older people are more likely to suffer from the classic Dunning-Kruger effect. This is when someone has very limited understanding of a subject, thus greatly overestimating their knowledge of the subject. So basically people who know nothing, act like they know everything! Mixed with declining cognitive ability and the sheer level of propaganda they get bombarded with, this particularly effects older people.
Like I said before, this obviously doesn’t apply to all pensioners (hell, some old people still like heavy metal) but on average most people, of no particular fault of their own, end up with declining cognitive abilities. Most old people end up losing their ability to critique the things they’re told, seriously overestimating their own expertise, and craving hard right leadership.
What can we do?
The only way we can stop the older generations from wrecking their dignity in old age and wrecking the aspirations of younger generations, is to talk to them. However hard the conversations might be, we have to bridge the generational divide by getting them to rekindle the sceptical abilities that they had in their youth.
True, Older people tend to suffer significant mental decline, but they are also likely to be conscientious. They’re more likely to care about other people, behave selflessly and put other people’s needs above their own. Appealing to older peoples own self-interest is a fair and non-exploitative strategy. Telling them that the Tory’s are going to rip them off by scrapping their winter fuel payments, the triple lock, and assest stripping them if they get ill and need social care is a reasonable thing to do, as these are things that older people have a right to know.
A major stumbling block in this strategy is that the Tories know that older people are likely to care about people, so they dress their draconian legislation up as ‘necessary sacrifices in the national interest’ rather than what they are, which is policies designed to punish vulnerable people for the benefit of the rich. The Tories are so heartless that they know older people can be tricked into voting against their interests, by telling them it’s in the greater good. That’s why, it is vitally important to make sure our elderly relatives know that the Tories are lying through their teeth.
Probably a much better way of speaking to elderly people, is to talk about the significant differences Labours Policies make to the lives of younger generations, their own grandchildren. Talk about how the Tories want to scrap free school meals and scrap education funding, so that the kids of today have worse opportunities then previous generations of children. Talk about student debts, explain how tuition fees in the UK are the highest in the whole world, and that Labour want to abolish them. Talk about Zero hour contracts, and how they represent a modern incarnation of unstable unemployment. Help them understand that the Tories aren’t just taking wealth from older generations, they are robbing wealth and opportunities from the entire country.
The votes of elderly citizens might make all the difference at this election. Obviously the votes of younger generations are equally important, but we need to stop the Tories blindly robbing the wealth and opportunities of all generations. Good luck.