Angry Old People May Out-Vote Young In EU Referendum

23/05/2016 12:02 | Updated 23 May 2016

According to a recent opinion poll for the Observer, most young people want the UK to remain in the EU but, only around half of the 18 to 34 year olds spoken to say they are likely to vote. The pollsters found that 53% of young people backed staying in and 29% favoured a UK exit but only 52% said they were likely to vote.

In sharp contrast in the 55 plus age group, 54% say they will vote for Brexit and we know they are far more likely to vote.

The polling companies have not done well in recent years - but even if we believe them when most say that the remain side is ahead - this may mean nothing on 24th June - because it is all about who can be bothered to vote.

Democracy is about having the debate - even an argument - on important issues and our membership of the EU is an important issue. The debate about our membership has passionate and sincere supporters on both sides. But, from my personal experience having talked to a lot of people on doorsteps and in the street, there is a strong negative theme running through some of the exit arguments and thats xenophobia - the morbid dislike of foreign people.

We were out in a busy shopping street last week - campaigning for staying in, handing out leaflets and talking to people who wanted to talk. One man came up - said nothing and slapped down page from the Daily Mail and walked off without saying anything - it was photographs and an article about some East Europeans living in a car park somewhere in the UK. For him this was all that need to be said about the EU (or not said in his case).

A few minutes later a women came up and demanded my views on East Europeans working in the UK - it was clear she had issues with East Europeans and didn't want to talk about anything else.

They didn't say that East Europeans had actually taken their own jobs or the jobs of anyone they know. It was not clear if the man with the newspaper cutting had been directly effected by any East Europeans. They seemed to simply hated the idea of them being in the UK.

A good number of people also said they supported staying in - I should add. I happen to think that on balance we are better of in than out - better off bargaining with China and the USA as part of a block of Countries working together even with some of the disadvantages. We are better off generally cooperating with other European countries rather than putting up barriers.

But - it is the many people who seem to want us to leave just because they don't seem to like foreigners that is depressing. There is a proper debate to be had about things like immigration and it's effect on employment but a number of people appeared angry that foreign people where coming to this Country at all - period.

These angry, apparently xenophobic, people seem to be more my age than young. This is a generalisation of course - but I think there is something to it. There are a number of older people in the exit camp just plain angry about foreign people coming to the UK even if it has not actually impacted on them directly. Don't get me wrong - I recognise that is their democratic right but it is depressing because it is a crappy reason to make such a momentous decision.

The issue is that these same people - those my age - have less of a stake in the future because, to be frank, we have less long to live than someone aged 18 to 34 years.

People my age, who are more likely to vote, have a shorter future than those younger people who are less likely to vote and it is older people who may well decide the future for everyone.

Of course the bulk of any exit vote will be made up of people who have a variety of reasons to vote for Brexit - as is their right. But it still looks like the views of older people will prevail over those with a bigger stake in the outcome - a bigger stake because they will live with the consequences longer.

If younger people don't bother to vote - for whatever reason - then they will have their futures determined by old people (like me) some of whom are just plain angry and just don't like foreigners.