Opinion: Votes at 16 – let’s follow the Isle of Man’s example

It is great news to hear that, after extending the franchise to 16 year olds in 2006, the Isle of Man is going to the polls today – and for the first time including 16 & 17 year olds!

However, (and it seems almost always) we are rather slow in enriching our democracy, whether it be changing the voting system, reforming the House of Lords, or extending the franchise to 16 & 17 year olds.

It is something both Liberal Youth & the British Youth Council have campaigned hard for. Even our Leader, Nick Clegg, who holds special responsibility for political and constitutional reform, supports Votes at 16:

Yes I am a big supporter of votes at 16. The state can ask a 16 year old to fight and die for this country, why not vote too?

Although now a 16 year old can’t be deployed into active service, they can have a job, start a family and take responsibility for their healthcare. It therefore seems daft that the UK doesn’t follow the progress the Isle of Man, Austria and some regions in Germany in extending the franchise to 16 year olds.

Extending the vote to 16 year olds will also help to curb apathy – politicians will have to pay more attention to the needs of young people, rather than in previous years, go after Middle Class England. Part of why the riots happened is because young people felt ignored. Giving them a say over who governs them empowers them to take responsibility – something young people have lacked in previous years. It liberates them.

It’s a small change, but an important one. Let’s follow the Isle of Man’s example and give young people the freedom to choose their representatives.

Harry Matthews is England Convenor, Liberal Youth.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Don Lawrence 30th Sep '11 - 2:23pm

    Interesting. I just wonder how long it would be before someone played the “all our canvassers have to be CRB checked, just to prove we are taking child safety seriously” card?

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