We're horrified by any derivation from our democratic process, but with the elderly vote becoming ever more influential to our political system, when will it be time that something is done to save the progressive voice of politics?
If you were expecting some Russell Brand call to arms against the ballot box, I may have led you astray. However, 2015 is upon us, and the year of the next general election will contain its fair share of party vs. party campaigns, TV debates (eventually), and the usual copious canvassing of the general public: 11 million of whom, according to Age UK, are now 60 or over.
In 30 years, according to projections by the Office of National Statistics, the over 65s will be made up of nearly 19 million people. This means that by 2045, the over 65s will control nearly a third of all votes; this number is set to rise. In fact, by 2086 about one in three people in the UK will be over 60. Coupled with an impressive turn out at the polling stations (75% of over 65s voted in 2010), this translates to a substantial degree of voting power. If the elderly vote is valued now, it certainly will increase in value in the future, and it will be a need to please us oldies which commands the majority of respect when parties discuss policy.
On the face of it, this sounds like a perfectly democratic outcome: the more elderly citizens, the more of a say they should have. However, older age has already been linked with authoritarianism, cognitive inﬂexibility, close-mindedness and resistance to change. These, and other personality-related attributes, have been argued to account for the association between age and conservative values and, by extension, they could also account for the link between age and Conservative voting.
While it would be short sighted, and more besides, to stamp all those over 65 as being conservative, research conducted by Associate Professor of Quantitative Social Science Dr James Tilley, suggests this to be the trend in later life. In his 2014 paper, 'Ageing and generational effects on vote choice' the conclusion he reaches is that vote choice is not due to generational effects, as other studies have argued, but instead:
"it is ageing as a psychological process that makes people gravitate towards parties that defend the status quo, which in the British context is the Conservative party."
With more conservative voices in the Commons than ever before, we may be left to suffer the injustice that large portions of our society be left without a say in the democratic process, leaving a legislative majority to wield a far reaching influence upon the political, economic and social organisation of the UK.
I have been fortunate enough to be an adult in a fairly equal political climate in the UK, where both major parties have been moulded by past elections. The clash of ideologies has become much more muted, as party differences narrowed. In recent years especially, enough mitigation and balance has been presented from both sides, keeping the extremes of each political favour unquenched.
In a world of increasing global conflict and multicultural uncertainty, we may find that without a mediating progressive, dare I say, liberal option to the political buffet, we may slip into a reactionary society: one which doesn't just defend the status quo, but acts to return to a period without global considerations.
Far be it from me to suggest the failings of democracy, but the justice or injustices possible within our own political system are simple enough to fathom if a substantial majority controls democratic power.
If we agree with Thomas Jefferson that each generation should be treated, as much as possible, as a singular nation, an unrelenting conservative majority would imprison many without true liberty. We can see it is not just the political ends, but the justice inherited within the result that needs to be considered. If it is not political deliberation we as an aging electorate should be concerned about, it is consideration for the voice of the young that will soon be shouted down, regardless of political allegiance.
This reality may quickly become apparent and go unchallenged. It must instead be recognised and discussed now.
Is it too shocking to suggest that, in our old age, we should sacrifice our vote so that others have a say in their future? I believe not. It should instead become our civic duty to voluntarily give up our vote, a 'sacrificial movement': a hand over of responsibility to the next generations, so that the balance of political discussion and justice within our society may continue.
I hope that I have the courage to allow the generations after me to make their own mistakes; create their own brilliance. Time undoubtedly will tell whether I allow those who succeed me to be free from my generational tyranny, and paint the world their own.