Labour Lords give up on votes at 16 in local elections

Yesterday in the House of Lords, during Parliamentary ping pong on the Cities and Local Government Bill, the Liberal Democrats tried to secure votes at 16. Labour peers, though, didn’t bother to turn up. This is yet another example of them being much more craven than you would expect of an opposition, especially one that thinks itself to be of a more radical hue than Labour has been for a while. This is a policy which was in their manifesto and they should have turned out to support it.

Ever since the tax credits vote in October, Labour peers seem to have got cold feet, allowing themselves to be intimidated by ministers.

Lib Dem peer Paul Tyler was far from impressed, saying:

This no show from Labour means that over a million people will not get a voice in future local elections.

Despite vowing to give 16 year olds the vote in their manifesto the Labour party are now shying away from standing by their policies.

It is clear that Labour do not have the drive or determination to act as the opposition that this country needs.

The Liberal Democrats will continue to scrutinise, amend and fight all the dangerous and damaging legislation the Tories bring forward, it is a shame that Labour can’t be relied on to do the same.

It’s a great shame that Labour have let young people down in this way. Councils might think twice about axing youth services if they thought that they would be accountable to the people for whom they are a lifeline.

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20 Comments

  • The Labour Party have got one thing right in the last 6 months, then. Votes at 16 is a bad idea and not one we should be supporting.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 13th Jan '16 - 11:56am

    TCO, it’s been our policy for as long as I can remember, so you’ll have a fight on your hands if you want that to change.

  • @Karen – Longevity is separate to desirability. Just because it’s been a policy for a long time doesn’t mean its a good one. I’ve yet to see a sound argument in favour of it.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 13th Jan '16 - 12:08pm

    Who is this Karen person you are replying to?

    There are many sound reasons for giving 16 year olds the vote, not least the one I mentioned in my article – services for young people are often the first target of cash-strapped councils while those for older people are seen as untouchable. Those young voices are as valid.

    Also, if people are paying taxes, they should be allowed to vote. That’s a no-brainer as far as I am concerned.

  • @Caron (apologies – bit tired today) I’d be very surprised if more than a tiny handful of 16-17 year olds are paying income tax given 1) the relatively small proportion of that age group not in education or training qho are in paid employment and 2) that not many of them will be earning >£10,000 p.a. if they are.

    Yes, they’ll be paying VAT, but so would any child buying toys or sweets and we’re not proposing to give them a vote.

  • If I can offer a correction, Caron: Labour peers did turn up to collect their expenses, but when it came to the vote, they did one of their famous abstention routines again.

  • @Caron “There are many sound reasons for giving 16 year olds the vote, not least the one I mentioned in my article – services for young people are often the first target of cash-strapped councils while those for older people are seen as untouchable. Those young voices are as valid. ”
    Those young voices have a parent or other responsible adult to speak on their behalf (and to take on all sorts of other responsibilities on their behalf).

  • As you can see – well over 90% of 16-17 year olds are in education or training, with c4% not known to the LEA and a tiny handful (>1%) in unqualified employment.

    16-17 year olds are not paying income tax.

  • The reason why 16-17 year-olds should have the vote is because they are subject to what government does. Quite simple, really.

    I am aware that infants are also subject to what government does. Yes, we do have to have a cut-off point, and I think 16 is about right. 16-17 year-olds, as a class, are probably just as aware of what government is and what it does as most over-18s.

    I find the case against votes for 16-17 year-olds extremely unconvincing. It is basically an appeal to social authoritarianism, a feeling of affront at young people trespassing on adult space.

    The late Eric Heffer hit the nail on the head when he denounced critics of the 1970 Isle of Wight Pop Festival as “youth haters”. That did much to shut them up.

  • Sesenco. There is a reason why the cut-off point is 18. Spend time with 16 year olds and then with 18 year olds. You *will* notice the difference.

  • Sesenco 13th Jan ’16 – 10:05pm……………….The reason why 16-17 year-olds should have the vote is because they are subject to what government does. Quite simple, really…..I am aware that infants are also subject to what government does. Yes, we do have to have a cut-off point, and I think 16 is about right. 16-17 year-olds, as a class, are probably just as aware of what government is and what it does as most over-18s…..

    A very muddled argument! You say the reason is ‘quite simple and then, in the next paragraph, you explain why it’s anything but simple….

    If !6-17, why not 15? I know some ‘worldwise’ 15 year olds….You and those who support lowering the voting age should just admit that it is just an “arbitrary figure” with little more merit than 15 and a lot less merit than 18…
    I agree with TCO…. “Spend time with (your average) 16 year olds and then with (your average) 18 year olds. You *will* notice the difference………..If we trust their judgement so much then why not on cigarettes/alcohol/gambling, etc.?
    I’ve yet to read any thread on those “choices”…

  • “Councils might think twice about axing youth services if they thought that they would be accountable to the people for whom they are a lifeline.”

    Council’s are already accountable to “the people”, yet it hasn’t stopped councils closing public services such as Libraries, selling off public amenities and assets (including the freehold) for profit such as school sites and/or school playing fields, allotments, parks, etc. etc.

    Additionally, given there isn’t a defined or common provision of youth services across the country, I and I suspect others (including the youths in my community) have problems actually identifying just what these council operated “youth services” you refer to are and their value to the community.

  • @TCO “There is a reason why the cut-off point is 18.”

    Yes, but if we revisit these reasons we might come up with a different answer 🙂

    One of the big changes we’ve seen in recent decades has been in education, with New Labour setting our expectations that at least 50% of youths will go into higher education and hence not actually enter “the workplace” until they are in their 20’s.

    So it could be argued that we should be raising the voting age not lowering it… 🙂

  • Another Mark 14th Jan '16 - 11:36am

    Have Labour given a reason for abstaining on this (he asked, expecting the answer no)?

  • @Roland “So it could be argued that we should be raising the voting age not lowering it… :)”

    You’d find no objection from me, with the sole exception that front-line troops shouldn’t be ordered to put their lives on the line without a say in the government that decides to put them there.

    21 was a good age.

  • Mark: The only reason I can find is “we want the credit for this, not the Lib Dems”. Lord Kennedy basically said he saw no point in another government defeat in the Lords on this issue.

  • Peter Watson 14th Jan '16 - 5:36pm

    @Sarah Noble “The only reason I can find is “we want the credit for this, not the Lib Dems”. Lord Kennedy basically said he saw no point in another government defeat in the Lords on this issue.”
    It does all seem a little odd though since, unless I’m missing something, Labour would probably be the party that benefits most from votes at 16. Might the New Labourites be trying to avoid handing influence to idealistic young ‘Corbynistas’ and nationalists?!?

  • Peter: That seems to be my take on it too. Labour peers are probably more anti-Corbyn than our peers are.

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