The young must resist using older people as scapegoats | the big issue

Anti-Brexit campaigners in Westminster. Photograph: Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Images

Your “Lost Generation” article (Magazine) cites inflammatory comments attributed to David Blanchflower that merit closer examination.

He asserts: “With the Brexit vote, the old declared war on the young and the young should respond by giving them the middle finger.” Is it really this straightforward? The YouGov poll indicates that 75% of 18-24 year olds voted Remain, as did 39% of the 65+ voters. Although I could not find any accurate figures for the proportions that actually voted, the guesstimates suggest these were approximately 40% and 80% respectively. Applying these to the YouGov figures indicates that only 30% of eligible voters in the younger group voted to remain whereas 31.2% in the older group did so. Sixty per cent were apparently indifferent. I therefore contend that Blanchflower’s clear division between young and old is misleading.

To create a scapegoat, first you must select an easily identifiable victim group, for example, old people. Next, they must be demonised. The “declared war” soundbite implies aggression on their part and the subsequent “Right, you’ve just screwed us” makes them responsible for the fears being exploited. Finally, the “now we are going to screw you” phrase justifies whatever retaliation is to be meted out.

I can only echo Andrew Hankinson’s recommendation that 18-24s should get involved. Not expressing your preference enables elites to make sweeping (and sometimes corrosive) assumptions to further their own agendas. Politicians seek to please those groups that use their votes so aim for a 100% turnout at every opportunity.

Graham Rex
Swansea

I am pleased Andrew Hankinson’s mother is so comfortably off. To represent his very atypical middle class family as representative of the whole – even of the middle class whole – is pernicious however .

Though my father worked for the state for his entire life, his widow has a private pension just sufficient to lift her across the pension credits threshold. Modest savings, the income from which once paid the utility bills, have gone on necessaryadaptations to the house and dentist’s bills – hersmall town has no NHS provision and she has no transport.

Out of her meagre income she attempts to help her son, who scrapes a living in the gig economy. He is 60, has no savings and no pension.

My savings, such as they are, will probably go to help him when the need arises. The value in my mother’s house will one day be consumed by care home fees or released as equity to pay carers at home.

My work pension, together with that of my partner, comes to the same as the state old age pension. We have been living on it for several years as we are both in too poor health to work. My pension age has been repeatedly moved forward: as a result I will have a reduced state pension when it finally arrives.

Our family’s pattern is at least as common as that of Andrew Hankinson’s and many of your readers will be similarly situated. To represent pensioners – even Observer-reading pensioners – as uniformly well off is inaccurate and harmful. Removing the triple lock on pensions will not be noticed by Andrew Hankinson’s mother, but for poor pensioners, no longer able to rely on their meagre savings, it will mean increased poverty.
Gilda Elizabeth
Ashford, Kent

Quick, set up a crowd-funding page to help Andrew Hankinson whose mother has managed to cough up only a measly £16,000-plus to subsidise him. She’s clearly a useless parent who failed to point out that being a writer was notoriously poorly paid and that he might have been better off, with his qualifications, to get a job in a bank, like her. She also failed to let him know that children (three of them)cost money. Classic baby-boomer selfishness, typical of a pampered generation that lived through numerous recessions, IRA bombings, riots and unemployment at three million. All those free degrees were clearly wasted on the roughly 5% who actually got them (unlike the nearly 50% in higher education now). Thanks to her, he is reduced to living in a “less posh suburb” while she has the nerve to be still working at 66, wallowing in savings (at invisible interest rates) and a pension built up over 40-plus years of employment.
Susan Seager


London

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