It's not the Baby Boomers who are to blame for Brexit, it's the Top Gun generation

This is the Budweiser-swilling generation who became adults in an era when politics, economics and popular culture embraced unquestioningly the survival of the fittest. Is it any wonder they have an instinctive loathing of the collectivism represented by the EU?

John Jenkinson
Monday 24 October 2016 10:05
Tom Cruise in the 1986 film 'Top Gun'
Tom Cruise in the 1986 film 'Top Gun'

Toby Young doesn’t believe in friends and he doesn’t believe in the European Union. Toby Young believes in individualism. Toby Young turned 18 in 1981. As a man who came of age in the 1980s, he is part of a generation that is at fault for both the forthcoming carnage of Brexit and for the existential crisis taking place in our country.

We have been looking in the wrong place for the age group to blame: thousands of column inches have been expended on how the Baby Boomer generation, with its rose-tinted half-moon spectacles, were responsible for the EU referendum result. In fact, a very specific demographic holds more responsibility for the situation we’re now in than any other: those who reached the age of majority in the eighties. Like his contemporary Toby Young, Boris Johnson also turned 18 in 1981, James Delingpole in 1983 and Michael Gove in 1985.

There’s polling that demonstrates the point: a majority of voters in their forties backed Brexit, the youngest demographic group to do so – and a majority of men too.

Why? Of course, no analysis of this demographic group would be complete without the spectre of Maggie. Not just Margaret Thatcher the woman but everything the Iron Lady and her era of rejection of community represented; everything that went on around her.

This is a Levi-clad generation whose teenage years were over-shadowed by the “glory” of sending the fleet to the South Atlantic to liberate a few rocks with way more sheep than people. This is the money-grabbing generation who came of age when Harry Enfield’s “Loadsamoney” looked more like aspirational social commentary than biting satire.

This is a Budweiser-swilling generation who came of age fetishising the individualism and nationalism of films such as Rambo and Top Gun – even Michael Douglas's Wall Street – and became adults in an era when politics, economics, popular culture and, importantly, masculinity embraced unquestioningly the survival of the fittest.

This generation has chosen to ignore that the triumph of Reaganist and Thatcherite consumer culture over the Soviet oppressor is now a chapter of history, not contemporary political science. They haven't noticed that Fukuyama and his “End of History” could not have been more wrong. Is it any wonder this group has an instinctive loathing of the collectivism, collective responsibility, suspicion of unfettered capitalism and cultural traditionalism represented by the EU?

The young adults of the 1980s now run big investment banks, civil service departments and FTSE 100 companies. The world has moved on from the Eighties every bit as much as it has from the Fifties and Sixties that the Baby Boomers hark back to. If only this selfish generation had had the nous to notice.

No, it’s not my pensioner dad I blame for Brexit. It’s my metaphorical older brother.

John Jenkinson a journalist in his late thirties living and working in London

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