Vince Cable has accused older Leave voters with “nostalgia for an imperial past” of “shafting the young”, in an article warning that keen Brexiteers could become “jihadis”.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, the Liberal Democrat leader attacked Brexit-backing voters over-65s as “self-declared martyrs” after a YouGov poll showed more than a third of Leave supporters would sacrifice their own job to get out of the European Union (EU).
Stating that he was “struck by … the heavily Brexit mood of church-hall meetings packed with retired people,” 74-year-old Cable said Leave voters are “predominantly elderly”.
Blasting older voters for “imposing a worldview coloured by nostalgia for an imperial past on a younger generation much more comfortable with modern Europe,” the former business secretary wrote: “Martyrdom of the old comes cheap, since few have jobs to lose.
“To describe such masochism as ‘martyrdom’ is dangerous,” he added, and expressed concern that an “undercurrent of violence” in the language of people who support Leave could lead to violent “jihad” in the name of Brexit.
“We haven’t yet heard about ‘Brexit jihadis’ but there is an undercurrent of violence in the language which is troubling.
“We have already had the most fervent of Brexiteers, such as Nigel Farage, warning of civil unrest if the ‘will of the people’ is frustrated,’” wrote the veteran politician, adding; “For the Brexit martyrs, paradise beckons.”
Cable also hit out at “sinister” calls by government ministers to sack anti-Brexit trade envoys, who they accused of “talking Britain down” as it leaves the EU.
“This is how McCarthyism started. At this rate, we will have Brexit thought crimes before long. Perhaps it is not surprising that the Brexiteers are becoming desperate,” he said.
This latest intervention by the newly-returned Lib Dem leader, who revealed in June he was holding informal talks with Tory Remainers to sabotage Brexit, is not his first attack on Britain’s pensioners.
Characterising Leave supporters he met during the referendum campaign as older voters and poor people in ‘second-tier’ northern towns last month, he slammed over-65 as “people who were obsessed by the worry of 80 million Turks coming over and being in their village.
“Immigration was a massive issue for them although they never actually encountered any,” he said, adding that “in that age group … there was a sense of nostalgia – the Britain that they’d been brought up in and loved and were comfortable with was no longer there.”