Should the British voting age be reduced to 16? Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru all believe so, and recently sought unsuccessfully to vote through a private members’ bill in Parliament to that effect.
The arguments made for this idea are specious. Letting 16-year-olds vote, it is claimed, would invigorate our democracy and show that the young, too, are responsible, engaged members of society. Really? So are they also calling for 16-year-olds to be allowed to smoke, drink, buy fireworks, gamble, get a tattoo, buy a house, drive a car or get married without parental permission? Are they clamouring for 16, not 18, to be the age limit for being sent to an adult prison? Of course not. The only reason the proponents are so keen to enfranchise 16-year-olds is that it would add 1.5 million people to the electorate, most of whom would be “blissfully naive about politics” and temperamentally inclined to vote for the Left – “easy prey”, in other words. Forget the high-minded talk about inclusivity. Their crusade “isn’t empowering; it’s child exploitation”. (The Week)
On this I absolutely agree. Sixteen is an age of rebellion, flux, embracing one idea today and abandoning it tomorrow, experimentation, irritating your elders etc. etc. The last time I had a political discussion with a member of my family of around that age I came away thinking he sounded like a mix of Napoleon, Franco, Enoch Powell and any one of a dozen right wing dictators. But judging him for this would be inappropriate – he was just experimenting, trying out various recipes life, and carefully watching my face as he spoke! I have no doubt he will end up wise – but not quite yet.