Voting Age 16

1105 Words Oct 6th, 2010 5 Pages
VOTING AT 16?

Neglected for a generation, a troublesome political question is back : when should young people be able to vote for candidates in elections? Conservative peer Lord Lucas of Crudwell and Dingwall recently tabled a Private Members Bill in the Lords. It proposed a voting age of 16. And this week, for the first time, a national coalition has been launched at the Houses of Parliament. The Votes at 16 Campaign is backed by a wide range of groups – from the National Black Youth Forum and Plaid Cymru to the YMCA and Liberal Democrat Youth and Students. Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission’s Sam Younger (true to his surname) has backed an independent review of the current voting age. The Minister for Young People, John Denham, has
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Maturity has no history. Youth and politics will never mix. So it follows that teenagers, in their imprudence, will misuse the vote. At sixteen (says Ellie Levenson of the Fabian Society) ‘teenagers are at their most rebellious and negative stage, a time when they are more keen on making a statement than acting responsibly.’ Like hysterical suffragettes bent on dragging passions into politics, or ill-mannered nineteenth-century workers, young people are a danger unto themselves. ‘Let us not provide’, runs Levenson’s objection, ‘an extra means by which teenagers can rebel against authority, by either abusing their vote or not voting at all.’

Defenders of the present system are so far in the majority. Yet when judged in terms of arguments they are in trouble. Their sense of history is poor and they lack both a unified voice and intellectual authority. No Edmund Burke or Thomas Carlyle is to be found in their ranks. They have Tony Blair, it’s true. At this year’s Blackpool conference, when asked about granting sixteen years olds the vote, he said that citizenship should have a ‘legal’ starting point : eighteen. The Prime Minister no doubt knows that the current legal condition of young people is anomalous, but he is not alone in his beliefs. The conservatives have plenty of politicians on their side, but – given their rising unpopularity - that may prove to be their joint undoing.

The wiser strategy would be to reform in order to
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