If you read Brendan O’Neill’s Coffee House article on Our Future, Our Choice! OFOC! – the campaign group of which I am co-president – you are left with the impression that we are a bunch of young fascists seeking a teenocracy. Brendan seems to believe that Britain’s youth see themselves as Nietzsche’s young warriors, and want to push out the ‘old men’. The ‘cult of youth’ wants to round up the walking-stick brigade, the village church congregations, the ageing Brexiteer army and send them where they belong: ‘peaceful’ correction camps.
This is ludicrous. I wholeheartedly believe in ‘one person, one vote’. It goes without saying that we at OFOC! do not want to ‘dehumanise the old’. The concerns of the young should not override the concerns of the old. We all have an equal say. Brendan mistakenly assumes that we are making some grand philosophical point; that we are busy devising a voting system which would give a full vote to a healthy eighteen-year-old, and 0.4 of a vote to an 88-year-old on their deathbed. We are not. We are making a pragmatic argument rather than a philosophical one. Brexit is a national project which will take at least over half a decade to complete. In that time, according to demographic shifts alone, it will have lost its mandate. The British people will then clearly be inheriting a national project a majority didn’t ask for, and would rather not have.
Instead, OFOC! is pointing out that our political leaders, parents, and grandparents have a choice. They can leave us with the Brexit legacy which many of us do not want. A legacy that we will probably seek to reverse. So instead of spending all this time, energy, and money doing something many young people hate and will probably reverse, we are suggesting that the government dedicate itself to energetically and urgently solving the problems that cannot wait for the Brexit mess to be cleaned up. There is no shortage of problems we all agree we have to solve: financing the NHS; fixing the parts of the country which Sir Alan Milburn describes as ‘coldspots’ – where social mobility has ground to a halt; prisons; the depletion of our armed services; under-investment in infrastructure in the North; parts of the country which have been culturally and economically left behind; gentrification in urban areas at the expense of rising tensions in the poorer parts of these communities.
We want to ask our parents, grandparents, and political leaders to choose between the constructive legacy of solving the problems above or the destructive legacy of Brexit – which will only hinder future generations from making this country a better place. We are not demanding the vote of our parents or grandparents be reduced; instead, we want them to consider voting with us. We are not seeking to subvert democracy, only to play a part in it.
It is time the young joined the Brexit conversation. Brendan O’Neill, a liberal who has moaned about the young being Stepford-apathetic-zombies in the past, now suggests we should not exercise our freedom to campaign, nor should we engage in the debate on the most important issue this country faces. We think he is wrong – and we will not let anyone ‘no platform’ us in the debate on our future. If this amounts to a terrifying cult of youth, I wonder who the real snowflakes are.