Votes at 16: Active Citizenship

Polling station sign
Debate Rating: HOT

There is something odd about a country that allows a sixteen year old to marry and have a child with an MP whilst denying them the right to vote for them. Labour party members ought to lend their voices to Lisa Nandy’s call to make lowering the voting age to sixteen a 2015 manifesto pledge, which would prevent the bizarre situation where many young people are denied the opportunity to vote until their early twenties.

Student protestors and the large numbers of young unemployed who took to the streets against the Coalition's austerity agenda highlight a hunger for political action that we ought to channel it in a more effective way. We already allow 16 and 17-year-olds to become directors of companies, join the armed forces, and obtain tax credits and welfare benefits in their own right, and we should certainly allow them to fully participate in society, especially as many of them work and pay taxes. What happened to no taxation without representation?

The Coalition didn't pause for thought before abolishing the Educational Maintenance Allowance, raising tuition fees, or speedily introducing education reforms they quickly backtracked on. However, they have moved more cautiously around benefits and policies that concern older people, with the Prime Minister constantly reiterating his pledge to keep the Winter Fuel Allowance and the Government yielding to pressure from organisations like AGE UK, who campaigned so effectively for the need to cap social careThe ‘grey vote’ has the ability to shape the political agenda and governments are mindful, even fearful, of getting on the wrong side of them. 16 and 17-year-olds , on the other hand, have a huge stake in society but remain voiceless and politically feeble.

Giving young people the opportunity to vote at 16 would entrench the civil responsibility of voting before they move away to university or get a full time job and voting slides down their list of priorities. More importantly, votes at 16 would guarantee that every citizen would be able to participate in a general or European election before the age of 21.

It is completely ridiculous that 16-year-olds can join political parties and participate in internal party selection processes but remain unable to vote in an election for the same people they played a part in selecting. Furthermore, it is untenable to lower the voting age in Scotland for the independence referendum and deny Scottish youth and their contemporaries in the rest of the UK the right to vote in the General Election the subsequent year.

Lowering the voting age is gathering momentum, with strong majorities in favour in the Welsh Assembly and Scottish and Westminster Parliaments. The Labour Party ought to recapture its reforming instinct and bring this voiceless section of society into active citizenship.

Posted 24/02/13 by Robbie Scott Write a reply

Debate Centre
Comments
Votes at 16 is one of the many, countless overdue improvements required to our clapped-out 19th century democratic system. You're absolutely right - roles and responsibilities (and taxes!) are given to sixteen year olds without the country awarding them the right to judge those who hand them those responsibilities.

The change from 21 to 18 happened at a time of sweeping social change. But that was three or four generations ago. The next step, to sixteen, shouldn't be denied to three or four more generations before it's enacted. Keep up the pressure on politicians.
12/07/13 09:18 by Líam Pennington (Agree)
It seems that politicians assume that the youth are apathetic, but we aren't given the option to show our opinions through elections. They seem to acknowledge the fact that we cannot hold them accountable by doing whatever they want in areas that concern young people the most, e.g. tuition fees and changes to the education system. However we do have a voice and although it is difficult, we need to be heard. Giving 16 year olds the vote is long overdue. However education on politics would be absolutely necessary as many do not receive this at home and this issue would have to be addressed along with the lowering of the voting age.
25/02/13 19:02 by Julia Webb (Agree)
Whether you agree or disagree in general, the point about Scotland is very apt. I can't see how David Cameron can say no to 16 year olds voting in General Elections now that he has agree to it in Scotland. As you say, this would seem extremely strange.

Given all that has been said on this recently - particularly in Westminster by Stephen Williams MP (Lib Dem) - I would have thought it is only a matter of time.
25/02/13 08:41 by Mike Robb (Agree)
Absolutely! What a great article. You have to question a society that deems 16 year old's too immature to vote for their mp but mature enough to sleep with and even marry them. I completely agree with you, young people are more politically aware today than ever. Politics are covered in the curriculum in Citizenship, so there is no doubt that 16 year old's have the understanding and maturity to make such a decision.
25/02/13 01:10 by Jess Hayden (Agree)
Exactly, I recently changed my mind on this. So many young people are switched on and we really ought to give them a political voice. Big decisions taken in their name say 'green energy' or nuclear issues which will effect them 20 years into the future ought to be put to their vote.
24/02/13 13:20 by Robbie Scott (Agree)
I've always said if you can legally have sex get married, you should be allowed to vote for the political parties who are actually affecting your life.

Should they have a vote yes, will they be interested enough to vote I highly doubt it, I'm not interested enough to vote anymore.
24/02/13 12:14 by robert naeth
Shared Evidence
No evidence
Video Responses
No videos