“It’s not fair!” The resentful shrill of Kevin the Teenager is drowning out even the shrieks of the wounded dinosaurs thrashing around in the Jurassic park of Toynbeeland, as referendum defeat reduces the increasingly unhinged liberal-left to infantile tantrums. In the emerging narrative, Britain’s youth has been robbed of an idyllic future in the green, sunlit uplands of the EU by a horde of selfish bed-blockers.
As the Guardian proclaimed: ‘Young remain voters came out in force, but were outgunned.’ Similarly themed press reports announced that 73 per cent of under-25s voted Remain. That sounds like a tsunami of highly motivated young voters. A spokesman from the youth voter movement Bite the Ballot claimed: ‘This generation are so passionate, they care so much about issues, but they are just not empowered to use the means of communication to get through to make real change.’
On investigation it transpires that, although they were empowered in the same way as everyone else with a polling card, they were so passionate and cared so much that only 25 per cent to 36 per cent of them bothered to vote. That contrasted with a turnout of 83 per cent among voters of 65 and older, of 81 per cent among the 55-64 age group and 75 per cent of those aged 45-54, according to early approximate data. So, young voters were not robbed, they abdicated responsibility.
The failure to vote is not necessarily a reproach to young people. Many voters of all ages complained they could not decide what was for the best. Any young voter who felt baffled and undecided acted responsibly in abstaining, since there is nothing democratic about voting on the toss of a coin, or succumbing to groupthink without understanding what is at stake. Indeed, some youthful abstentions may have been an act of maturity, deserving respect.
For the Enragés on social media, however, their grievance is Byronic in scale and drama. It appears the referendum lacked legitimacy because 16 and 17-year-olds were not allowed to vote. Apparently the finely honed judgement of people who have never had a job or paid a tax bill and are heavily overdrawn at the Bank of Mum and Dad would have brought an insightful perspective to the decision.
Then there is the online petition to run a second referendum immediately, in the hope it might bring a different result. As late as Sunday lunchtime this farcical insult to democracy and the electorate was being portentously reported by the BBC, although other news outlets had already revealed certain peculiarities. It emerged that 25,000 of its signatures came from North Korea (a nation addicted to such democratic exercises), 39,000 from the Vatican City (no outbreak of political hysteria would be complete without a Popish Plot) and 2,800 from Antarctica. Cyber buffs also suggest a ‘script’ device is being used to generate signatures automatically.
The Liberal-Left has been so traumatised by unexpected defeat it has lost the plot. Irrationality is the order of the day. The supposedly mainstream political leaders have succumbed to the same malaise. Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon is threatening that the Holyrood parliament could veto Brexit. In fact all it could do is ‘withhold consent’ which has a slightly different legal significance. For Sturgeon to indulge in temper tantrums like this and invoke such nuclear options further illustrates that common sense is fast evaporating in the political arena.
If she behaved so irresponsibly, all Westminster would need to do is overrule a regional assembly to which it has lent authority or suspend the Scotland Act, which requires to be revisited in any case to fillet it of its obsolete EU provisions, and her fox would be shot. The truth is Sturgeon is throwing every toy she can find out of the pram to create a distraction from what she most dreads: being forced to hold a second independence referendum, in a situation of extreme instability, which she would lose.
It is not only adolescents who are indulging in grotesque fantasies: at least one senior citizen has caught the contagion. Lord Heseltine (look him up in the history books) is demanding that the 350-strong Remain majority in the House of Commons should not change their minds and approve Brexit unless ‘it has been supported either by an election or by another referendum’. The public reaction to being ordered to reverse its decision in a second referendum is not pretty to contemplate. It is distressing to discover Lord Heseltine is neglecting his medication.
He is being partially supported, however, by Tony Blair (look him up in the Chilcot Report next week) who thinks a second referendum problematic, but adds, ‘why rule anything out right now?’ In fact 17,410,742 reasons suggest themselves. The notion that that number of votes should be overruled by 350 MPs seems a more effective blueprint for revolution than anything the Socialist Workers’ Party ever conceived.
As for an election – for which there is no discernible constitutional requirement – the obvious intention is to construct some kind of Remain majority to claim a new mandate. MPs are normally reluctant to go to the country until the last possible moment. The current state of the Labour Party makes a sackful of fighting stoats look disciplined, while the Conservative Party resembles a scorpion stinging itself to death. UKIP, flushed with referendum success, has the wind in its sails while the legacy parties clearly cannot be trusted to implement the Brexit decision. If that is not a recipe for an historic electoral breakthrough, what is?
The British political class is fecund with Baldrick-style cunning plans, in the wake of David Cameron’s similarly inspired referendum initiative. The mood is kamikaze and the lemmings are stampeding towards the cliff edge. What was that journalistic cliché about ‘whom the gods wish to destroy’? No doubt Boris could supply the original Latin version.