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Support for Votes at 16

October 11, 2012

It would be good if Scots 16 and 17 year olds get a chance to vote in the referendum on Scottish independence.  I’ve supported the case for votes@16 for many years. If a precedent is set in such an important vote in Scotland then surely the right must be extended to all other parts of the UK.

We’ll have to wait and see whether the speculation turns out to be true.  It would be surprising if the Prime Minister has conceded votes for sixteen year olds as most of the opposition to such a change has come from his own party.  The Lib Dems, Labour and the nationalist parties have all backed votes@16 for all UK elections.  I suspect there is a majority in the Commons for such a change at the moment.  I am hoping to open a backbench debate on the issue very soon in order to test opinion.  I have support from Labour, SNP and Plaid Cymru but have found it hard to find a favourable Tory!  Maybe if the PM has conceded the issue in Scotland, we will be able to secure true cross party support for change in all the nations of the UK.

I had a private member’s Bill on the issue in November 2005, which failed by just 8 votes.*  Hopefully within a year we could get legislation in place for all elections from 2014 onwards.  There are many rights (and obligations) given to 16 year olds.  But what has always been most persuasive with me has been my long experience of answering questions on visits to 6th forms and colleges.  I have heard from young people who are much more engaged with the issues of the day than people with decades of voting behind them.  It is time to trust all 16 and 17 year olds with the vote.


*NOTE – here is the Hansard record of my speech on 29 November 2005, the speech against and division.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. October 11, 2012 1:25 pm

    I must admit I’d never really thought about this issue until recently, when it was pointed out to me that 16 and 17 year olds are taxed (admittedly they are unlikely to break earn above their personal tax allowance but surely some do) without representation. Surely this is an untenable position when they are in no position whatsoever to dictate the terms under which they are taxed?

    • October 11, 2012 4:00 pm

      Yes, paying tax is one very good reason, though as you say this is theoretical in many cases as earnings are likely to be low and/or from part time jobs. I think a more fundamental one is the age of consent – you can have sex and potentially bring another human being into the world at 16. What could be more important than that?!

  2. October 11, 2012 2:50 pm

    If this becomes law, in Scotland for 16 + then where does it end ? The next election and possable referendum (I joke not) on E.U. is/may be in May 2015 When do 16 year olds revise or sit exams ? Is it not a stressful time already for them, without wondering if the fisical policy of one bunch of proven liers is better than the other bunch ?
    With rights comes responsabilites, a small proportion of 16+ may well be able to cope with the issues of one argument against another – if this is so, then why has the age for the purchase of Tabbacco just been raised from 16 to 18 ?

    Also one must not forget how promises to the young are easily broken

    • October 11, 2012 4:11 pm

      Voting just takes half an hour or so, less if you live near a polling station or have a postal vote. And it is not compulsory. In practise of course, few 16 and 17 olds would actually vote as it depends when their relevant birthday falls in the electoral cycle. I was 18 on 11th October 1984 (it’s my birthday today!) but had to wait until June 1987 before my first general election vote.
      Re tobacco age – I do not believe that all rights and responsibilities start at 16. There is a continuum of trigger points for health, crime, education, tax and other civic duties from 16 to 18.

      • October 11, 2012 5:44 pm

        Happy birthday!

      • mark permalink
        October 11, 2012 7:03 pm

        Yep, voting on soundbites and a vacuous attitude to issues takes just a few moments. Living with the consequences may take generations.

        Generally 12 year olds would vote for free chocolate, 16 year olds for free cider and twenty one year olds would be out partying on election night; leaving the real decisions on the real issues to those who have lived a little and have insights that only time and experience brings.

        It is of no coincidence to my mind that the parties whose policies are least responsible are advantaged by a lower age of enfranchisement. What is the demographic of the EDL ?

      • Crow permalink
        October 11, 2012 9:28 pm

        I think his point was that the thinking takes time, not the voting. But given that the voting IS easier, why not change the vote date so young people can give it thought during the summer and vote in late August or in September, maybe after the conference season? If conferencing and campaigning for elections were done at the same time, there might be a lot of money saved too…

  3. October 11, 2012 3:46 pm

    Back in 2002, the secondary school (11-16 yrs) curriculum was amended to include Citizenship as a subject, after the Crick Report in 1998. Here is what wikipedia says on the subject:

    ……The National Curriculum for citizenship sets out teaching requirements that address a wide range of content including politics, parliament and government, the operation of the legal system, how the economy functions, the role of the media, human rights, Europe and international relations. Teachers use topical political and social issues to bring citizenship content to life and to help pupils develop key citizenship skills of research, discussion and debate, as well as to represent the views of others, think critically, evaluate and reflect. The Citizenship curriculum aims to develop student’s ability to participate in communities and wider society as informed, critical and responsible citizens. The purpose of “active citizenship” is to teach students to work together and take practical action, using their Citizenship knowledge and understanding to contribute to a better society. For example, after learning about human rights, diversity and inequality, students might decide to set up a project to address racism in their school or local community. Other examples of active Citizenship projects include starting recycling programmes, setting up student action groups to address bullying or promote fair trade or campaigning to lower the voting age to 16…..

    Arter researching I understand why a 16 year old must be able to vote as he/she understand the political world. I could not understand why it was not made in the earlier in this century. If the parents can ‘kick’ the child out to face the world, on child’s own, child has to be made responsible to change the political world of the child. Tax is exempt because there is not enough money for the youngsters to live on. I do hope Stephen’s wishes come true before the next general election

    • October 11, 2012 4:15 pm

      Thanks. I have worked with the citizenship foundation on this issue in the past. Also the Education Select Committee looked at the teaching of citizenship about 5 years ago and we interviewed Bernard Crick. The subject is still evolving I would say with some schools better than others. Also the cadre of teachers qualified in the subject is still growing, though most history teachers would be perfectly competent.

  4. October 11, 2012 5:53 pm

    You might find to be easier to read than the official Hansard website.

  5. October 11, 2012 8:17 pm

    Everyone except the Tories. Again.

    • Crow permalink
      October 11, 2012 9:21 pm

      🙂 I’ll leave aside my usual temptation to wade in about that though. I just think that 16 year olds should get the vote, because people take stuff more seriously if they think they have a stake. Those who think that younger people would vote frivolously can content themselves with the fact frivolous people of any age rarely vote. I remember a debating society at school that suggests the high quality of debate might teach the Commons things it wanted to forget. As for the Tories (I really find it hard to resist at least one potshot), what are they afraid of? If they are afraid of the nation’s children, they are not strong leaders. That is all.

  6. October 12, 2012 6:50 pm

    Dear Crow
    Please get real, can you see the Gen Election following the conferance season, in any seriious light ? It would mean that the M.P.s would lose 3 weeks paid holidays and a holiday. As for your ideaof it saving money, when did any Government want to save money that included cutting their own expences, just think back to the time taken to get the expences scandel exposed and just how many M.P.s (including the then ‘Speaker’ fought to stop the F.O.I. application, if it were not for the ‘whistle blower’ sending all the info to the Daily Telegraph, we would today be none the wiser.

    • Crow. permalink
      October 12, 2012 7:21 pm

      I will never promise that every suggestion I make is entirely serious… But suppose it could work? At least this way, one MP can’t so easily claim the idea has never been made known. If you want to see my really serious posts, look at the previous thread..

      If anyone catches me making any less-than-serious point in too serious a manner again, murmur ‘duck houses’ the way Watson murmured ‘Norbury’ to Holmes, and I’ll get the idea. I will at least try not to duck the issue.

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