Lib Dem Lords fight for votes at 16 in Council elections

The Liberal Democrat campaign for votes at 16 enters a new stage today as the Lords debates the Cities Bill. Liberal Democrat Paul Tyler has put down an amendment which would enable 16 and 17 year olds to vote in Council elections in England and Wales.

Labour have said that they will support Paul’s amendment. If it passes, it will then be up to David Cameron’s Conservative MPs to overturn it. I suspect that they will have no problem doing that given that young people are hardly top of their list of priorities at the moment. However, you don’t need many Tory rebels to threaten the Government’s majority. The only thing is that you would need the SNP to vote in order to defeat the Government in the Commons. If the SNP does vote on this entirely English and Welsh matter, you would be less likely to get the Tory rebels. The chances of it becoming law therefore seem slim at this stage.

There is a fundamental unfairness about denying the vote to our citizens who are expected to pay taxes. We saw in the Scottish referendum how engaged young people were to the debate and how they made such a positive contribution. The case for reform is undeniable. The Tories will deny it, though.  This is a fundamental issue of fairness and we must continue to highlight it at every possible stage and support young people’s right to a say in the way they are governed.

Paul Tyler said of his amendment:

There is no reason to deny 16 and 17-year olds the right to vote. They are subject to all the laws of the land and pay taxes as the rest of us.

They can become company directors, get married and join the army. They are full members of society and should be treated as such when it comes to voting.

The Scottish Referendum showed that 16 and 17-year-olds are more than capable of taking part in the democratic process, this right should now be extended to those young people in England and Wales.

This is an important first step in the Liberal Democrat fight to make sure 16-year-olds have the vote in the EU Referendum and General Elections.

Conservative cuts will hit young people the hardest – it is only fair they get the chance to have their say on these measures.

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

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  • The problem I see is that most 16 – 17year olds are less than interested in Council affairs, generally wanting a say in broader, “more important” things than local level. We Lib Dems we might see that as wrong thinking, but the thought could stay with them, “here go the Lib Dems again, palming us off with something we don’t really want”.

  • There is no reason to deny 16 and 17-year olds the right to vote. They are subject to all the laws of the land and pay taxes as the rest of us.

    Could you explain again your reason for denying 14 and 15-year olds the right to vote? What about 10 and 11-year olds?

  • Dav, Google childline for those younger ages.

  • It is interesting how opinions, and consequently laws, change over time. Unfortunately it is a fact that the more right-wing parties take longer to catch up with the society they are supposed to represent. But we do see that on subjects like equal marriage rights they give in to the inevitable eventually AND try to tell us it was their idea.

  • 16 year olds can join the army, but they can’t be deployed on the front line. There may be times when they pay tax, but they don’t have the right to buy cigarettes, or nip into their local for a pint. They may be able to marry – with parents consent – but can’t watch an x rated movie. There’s no half measures here, if we say 16 and 17 year olds are old enough to vote, then they must have all the rights that adults currently have. However, how would we feel about 16 year olds patroling the streets of Afganistan, nipping into the registry office to get married on their way home from school, or working in the sex industry. I’ve worked with a lot of young people and I honestly think that there are more reasons for raising the voting age than lowering it.

  • jedibeeftrix 15th Jul '15 - 2:11pm

    @ TRW – fighting now to preserve what they fought to prevent a hundred years earlier. True enough.

  • Richard Underhill 15th Jul '15 - 4:08pm

    Tim Clement-Jones presented a White Paper to federal conference decades ago.
    He is now a peer and in good health after camoaigning inthe general election.
    Most of the White Paper is now law.

    It is bizarre as well as unfair that some of the people who were entitled to vote in the Scottish referendum were denied the vote in the general election. I canvassed three MPs and a peer at conference in Glasgow, (one was a minister, none is an MP now).

    One of our MPs said that the issue had twice been raised in the Commons by Liberal Democrats, but Labour MPs did not vote for it. It would appear that they do want to do this, but only if they can put their brand name on it. They are in oposition again and the measure has not been enacted.

  • Today’s 16 and 17 year olds seem more politically savvy and like the rest of the population they will vote if they are interested enough.
    My teenage grandson thinks they should not vote at 16 because they may only follow their parents wishes.
    That is what I did the first time I voted but it was a milestone and a privilege to be able to vote.
    I have never missed a chance to vote since.

  • There may be times when they pay tax

    It always confuses me when people bring up tax in this context. There’s absolutely nothing special about 16, tax-wise. Ten-year-olds can pay tax, if they earn enough (eg, child stars). 20-year-olds can not pay tax, if they don’t earn enough (eg, most students). And yet for some reason people always trot out ’16-year-olds can pay tax’ as if it were somehow relevant to the issue; as if ‘paying tax’ were a privilege granted at 16.

  • richard boyd OBE DL 16th Jul '15 - 4:46pm

    Not quite the spin as put on in today’s Independent and “i”. Libs mentioned as being part of the debate rather than

  • Richard Underhill 20th Jul '15 - 4:58pm

    Go to a school and finish by saying “We support votes at 16” for guaranteed applause.

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