There is a great injustice in this realm of ours which has gone scarcely noticed and scandalously unmentioned. For too long the yoke of oppression has denied plethoras of our fine and responsible citizens their voice and agency in our public life. This four and a half million deserve the trust and respect from society afforded to the rest of us. I write, of course, to advance the case for the expansion of our sacred franchise for all those above the age of twelve years old.
12 year olds can get their ears pierced, be convicted of a criminal offence, and choose their religion. It is time for a change in the law which recognises that the franchise should reflect this maturity and give those above 12 a say in their own future. The decisions of politicians affect us all; there is no reason we shouldn’t be looking to the next generation of voters. The Scottish referendum and the 2017 general election proved that young people are engaged and we must move forward with the times.
Yes, I am mocking. The votes for 16 year olds debate has been a farcical display deserving of mockery. The Labour Party believes that they have the youth vote entranced by their promise of the world, all paid for by somebody else, they’d have you believe. This is not the spirit in which we ought to conduct reform. We won’t protect the integrity of our way of life if we use it as a party political weapon. With all of the upheaval generated by the Brexit vote, we need some continuity and calm more than ever in public life. The simple fact is that our democracy, and indeed all democracy, is in a fragile state. As we commemorate one hundred years since some women in the UK first received the democratic right to vote for their Member of Parliament, let us remember that this great experiment is still so very young. When the Cold War ended in 1991, it seemed to some that we had reached the “end of history” and the ultimate triumph of liberal democracy. Lately, however, we have witnessed a crisis in democratic confidence.
The Labour Party and others on the left have recently clamoured to expand the voting age to those of 16 years and above. Of course it would be silly of me to suggest that this is a threat to our democracy, it isn’t one. I am sceptical, however, whether the left would be pushing such an agenda were they not confident they could more easily seduce younger minds with fantasy economics. Such a cynical abuse of our democratic institutions could serve only to further undermine our way of life. The expansion of the franchise is a serious matter and it should not be rushed through simply out of short term politicking.
Perhaps you want the governance of our family of nations decided by Jimmy who hasn’t taken his English Language GCSE yet; if you do then fair enough. Personally I’m not too confident about Jimmy. I understand the argument that if we get people voting young they will be more likely to vote in future, but do you remember what you thought of the world at 16?! Labour in Wales opened local elections to 16 year olds and maybe there is where a compromise lies if necessary.
Leaving the European Union is a watershed moment in our democracy. It is more crucial than ever that we approach our constitutional arrangements sensitively. The great democratic experiment is faltering around the world, spurred on by the economic miracle of the totalitarian Chinese who have proven to some that capitalist success doesn’t require democratic institutions. Authority is, unfortunately, in fashion. To rush into reform for cynical reasons risks undermining our way of life at this crucial time