LibLink…Stephen Williams MP: The time has come for votes at 16

On Saturday, Hannah Bettsworth and Jenny Marr of Liberal Youth Scotland encouraged us all to lobby our MPs to vote for a motion tabled by Liberal Democrat MP for Bristol West Stephen Williams calling for the voting age to be reduced at 16.

Stephen himself has now written a post on his own blog outlining why this issue is so important to him.

I have long believed that 16 year olds are mature enough to vote, if they want to. Years of experience of talking and listening to sixth form and college students has convinced me that enough of them have the knowledge about their communities and the wider world to make judgements on how they want the future to look. The curriculum itself and extra curricular activities have made the current generation of late teens the best informed and engaged in our history. Traditional lessons such as history or RE are now taught in a way that enables students to understand their place in society and to weigh up evidence and make judgements. More recent subjects such as PSHE and citizenship give young people more preparation for the world outside the classroom.

Participation in the UK Youth Parliament has grown and most schools now have their own councils with elected representatives. Frankly, I have met many older voters in their fifties and sixties who are remarkably ignorant about the world around them. We don’t suggest taking the vote off people who have no qualifications and stubbornly held but ill-informed opinions. So we should not continue to withhold the vote from the best informed generation of young people.

He went on to talk about how it’s older people’s voices that are most heard by politicians and how giving 16 year olds the vote, as long as they used it, would help to give the electorate its rightful balance.

I wrote recently about how politicians fear alienating the “grey vote”, which is becoming more significant as our society ages. Older people are also more likely to turn out, giving them even greater electoral firepower. Our democracy is in danger of becoming a gerontocracy as the will of the old trumps the needs of the young.

You can read the whole article here. And if you haven’t found time to lobby your MP yet, those lovely people at Liberal Youth Scotland have drafted a letter template you could use. This is something that means a great deal to me as this year will be 30 years since I joined the SDP, on my 16th birthday. It really frustrated me that I had to wait until 1987 to cast my first vote, missing out on the chance to vote for Russell Johnston in the European election in 1984. Over quarter of a century further on, with, as Stephen says, the best educated and informed generation ever, it seems so wrong that we are still waiting for change. Let’s hope he succeeds on Thursday.

* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in LibLink and Op-eds.
Bookmark the web address for this page or use the short url http://ldv.org.uk/32768 for Twitter and emails.

2 Comments

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?




Recent Comments

  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 21st Oct - 9:15am
    Hi Cara, thanks for your reply. The problem with GAAR was that rather than get rid of the loop-holes that already existed the government lazily...
  • User Avatarsimon 21st Oct - 9:08am
    Coming back to that Lord Ashcroft poll I mentioned last night (as I say it may be referred to on here, so this is the...
  • User AvatarDaniel Jones 21st Oct - 8:56am
    The author appears to have either confused/conflated tax avoidance and tax evasion, or is frankly illiberal in desiring to legally punish people for legal activity....
  • User AvatarGeoffrey Payne 21st Oct - 8:47am
    Conference voted 95% against secret courts so this change would have no effect on that. One thing I would warn against is direct democracy. The...
  • User AvatarJohn Critchley 21st Oct - 8:43am
    Cara, I agree that this is an issue that has to be dealt with and that international agreement is necessary. Are politicians tough enough to...
  • User Avatarsimon 21st Oct - 8:41am
    "I would be concerned if the British Government were allowed to do it on their own " If you want a summary of quite how...