NOBODY likes a smart alec, goes the saying, and this is particularly true of the UK, where intellectualism and the concept of big ideas have long been treated with scepticism.

David “Two Brains” Willetts, the former Tory universities minister and one of the party’s more cerebral thinkers over the last 15 years (though, let’s be honest, there hasn’t been much competition) has often been a victim of this type of attack.

And the knives were out last week when he had the temerity to suggest one such big idea: that baby boomers like himself should pay a bit more tax on their wealth to help ease the burden on struggling younger generations.

According to the now Lord Willetts, chair of the Resolution Foundation think tank, by 2040 an extra £60bn will be needed to fund public services such as health and social care. If those born in the 15 or so years after the end of the Second World War, holders of half the country’s wealth, don’t stump up a bit more, the alternative he suggests is bleak: 15p on the basic rate of income tax for their children and grandchildren, many of whom are already struggling with high housing costs, massive student debts, low wages and lack of job security.

“The time has come when we boomers are going to have to reach into our own pockets,” he said, suggesting a one per cent levy on houses worth more than £100k and an overhaul of inheritance tax.

As he said the words one could sense the outrage in garden centres up and down the land. For woe betide anyone who reminds the boomers how good they continue to have it, sitting pretty in valuable homes often bought with tax subsidies, living off gold-plated final salary pension schemes and a triple-locked state pension paid for by younger people who will be lucky to get any retirement benefits at all and will need to work till they’re 70.

Baby boomers often call today’s young people the “snowflake” generation for their lack of resilience and the ease with which they become offended, but the offence often displayed when it is suggests boomers share their wealth, or even pay a little bit more towards their social care, is extraordinary.

How many times have Generation Xers like me listened to those in their sixties and seventies wax lyrical about the properties they bought for £20k now being worth hundreds of thousands. “Who’d have thunk it, eh?”, they titter among themselves. But when you suggest this is unearned wealth, gained purely by the luck of a property market that rose beyond their wildest dreams, and could thus perhaps be shared, even a little bit, you are met with the iciest of stares. As The Herald reported only last month, the Scots property market is gridlocked thanks to over-65s sitting tight in big, empty houses, meaning younger families are unable to move up the ladder.

Don’t get me wrong, I know not all over-65s are wealthy and, as the daughter of a retired nurse, I know how hard folk had to work for their pensions, how genuinely they deserve them. I also realise that many older people are asset-rich, cash poor.

But, as Lord Willetts rightly highlighted, the chickens really are coming home to roost on this one. It’s a point only exacerbated by the reality that it was baby boomers - though not in Scotland - that largely voted for Brexit, a mind-bogglingly expensive calamity they caused but won’t be paying for.

That’s why we need not only an honest conversation about these matters, but some radical action.

We should start by acting on the shockingly outdated council tax bands that have been letting big homes off the hook for years, leaving the local authorities charged with providing social care seriously under-funded. Pensioners who can’t afford to pay more now could defer until after their death when their property is sold. The threshold of inheritance tax could also be lowered, and/or the rate raised for properties worth over, say, £450k, thus taking in much of the wealthy south east of England.

No one wants to pay more tax, but for the good of all society we need to distribute property wealth more fairly. At present only the descendants of those with big, expensive properties benefit, while all taxpayers - including those at the bottom - pay for their social care.

I was in a distinct minority in believing Theresa May was on to something when she floated the so-called dementia tax, proposing those with assets of more than £100k should pay for home care out of the value of their property, to be recouped upon death – in her General Election manifesto.

The fact the policy is widely believed to have been her undoing tells you all you need to know about what the grey vote in Tory heartlands thought of the concept of sharing, even when they’re dead.

Look, I get that this is a difficult conversation. I get that it requires a leap of faith many are not yet prepared to make. But if we are to avoid a total collapse of the health and social care services we all want for ourselves and our loved ones, and/or the bankrupting of an already struggling generation, then it’s a leap the baby boomers will have to make. Two Brains is right: the time for big ideas is now.