The minimum age that someone is allowed to vote in the UK was reduced from 21 to 18 years in 1969, and the swell from the deeps is to drop this soon to 16 years. As usual it is the liberals amongst us who are fuelling the fire and fanning the flames.
In 1999 LibDem Simon Hughes proposed it in the Commons, but was heavily defeated. The House of Lords had a go in 2003 (again thwarted). Another LibDem try in 2005 was narrowly defeated, however PM Gordon Brown voiced support in 2006, and by 2009 16 year old voting was being openly supported by the major UK parties. It’s not here yet but you can bet your bottom dollar that it is not far off. [it is already there in our Dependencies of Jersey & Guernsey]
The Scots have already granted 16 year-olds the vote in their forthcoming Independence Referendum to be held on 18 September 2014 – reduction of the voting age has been a policy of the Scottish National Party (SNP) since 2007.
Youngsters of sixteen have little interest in politics (they are inspired by music and the opposite sex – in that order), know even less about it, don’t care, and have little life experience on which to evaluate base opinions. Oh yes teenagers are a rebellious enough rabble who are keen to kick the traces over, and stuff authority – but that is a poor reason for giving them the vote. That is not to say that maturity brings wisdom, but at least it does give exposure to responsibility and some of the knocks and trials & tribulations of life.
People’s views and opinions do change over time, especially while growing-up. An ‘unlikely’ Churchill quote bandied around is “If you are not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain”, and while many of us would not agree specifically with that statement, it does nevertheless demonstrate the point! [it is unlikely to be a true quote as Churchill himself did NOT follow that directive!).
The age 18 qualification for voting is the most common in the rest of the World. Why then are our politicians determined to force this reduction upon our Country, when polls show that none of us want it (whether young or old, politically Left or Right) – it is widely opposed even by the 16 year olds as well. You can bet that the politicians can see some kind of benefit to themselves (and not us), even if it is only to present themselves to the electorate the World as radicalists.
Who is currently stacking the card deck for 16 voting? Labour Party, Green Party, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Scottish National Party, Vote 16, Democratic Unionist Party, Ulster Unionist Party, Social Democratic Labour Party..
Let us not forget that three hundred years ago hardly any people in Britain had the right to vote – a few percent at most; the Westminster electoral system was utterly unrepresentative of the people. The use of patronage was even more abused than it is now (with PM David Cameron in two years stuffing 125 of his folks into the Lords, as well as this year giving honours to all and sundry including the guy who cuts his hair).
Of course those fighting for electoral reform in the past were not treated with kid gloves– repressive measures were taken against them and many gave their lives for this cause. It probably took the worrying threat posed by the example of the French Revolution in the late seventeen hundreds, to eventually force through the issue demanded by radical reformers, that all men be given the right to vote – universal ‘manhood’ (meaning adult male) suffrage (the right or privilege of voting): the third Parliamentary Reform Act in 1884 gave only male house owners the vote – power was still left in the hands of the aristocracy and the middle classes. Universal suffrage, with also ‘limited’ voting rights for women (over 30 only – and some suffragettes were imprisoned or had to die for that!), wasn’t achieved for another 30 years (1918). All women finally got the vote 20 years later in 1928.
The major problem Britain is facing in elections NOW is voter apathy– all those individuals in the past who sacrificed so much and even sometimes paid with their lives, to build our democracy, seem to have suffered in vain. Turnouts in elections are nothing short of dreadful (many circa 40% and about 60% common – with the lowest turnout being 18% in a 2012 by-election!). This is despite the appalling decision to give postal voting to all and sundry. Voting papers should have a box printed on them for ‘None of the Above’ and then voting in General Elections should become Compulsory (even if people have to be paid by the State to vote). That will at least give us a semblance of democracy wont it?
There are people in their thousands still dying and abused in overseas countries to try and get the vote and to have a say in who leads their country and how it is run. Shame on us for the way we treat our voting rights!
[What is the next step then on voting at 16? The main parties supporting will put it in their General Election manifestos – then it will be too late. Put a stop to it now – contact your local political party AND your MP to tell them you want this idea trashed]