Opinion: We need votes at 16 for the EU referendum

I’ve recently become increasingly aware of some of the comments passed by the Tories and UKIP regarding the minimum voting age on the upcoming EU Referendum, which seems likely to be set at 18. They’re quite worrying to say the least.

John Redwood, Conservative MP for Wokingham, accused 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds of not being interested in voting and critics of trying to hijack the referendum by suggesting that they should receive suffrage, whilst numerous UKIP politicians have argued that we have been close to “brainwashed” through the education system by the Liberal Democrats in particular.

Speaking as a young person, I feel that these comments are hugely belittling and insulting. I would have hoped that the active participation of young people in last year’s debate in the run-up to the Scottish Referendum would have proved that we are more than capable of fairly assessing political situations and choosing for ourselves what will be best for our own future.

Besides, we can marry at 16, we can become taxpayers at 16 and we can leave home at 16, but the the Tories and UKIP still don’t trust us to be able to judge for ourselves what’s best for us when it comes to such important and monumental decisions like British membership of the EU.

As inveterate supporters of votes at 16 and of democracy (clue’s in the name!), I hope that we can look at this at the very first opportunity to rebuild our party, to put a strong case for young people forward, and to brush off the disappointment of the election result.

Thanks to the Lib Dems being the first party to rush to combat the Eurosceptic threat and to declare itself as the party of “in”, I think it’s also important that we establish ourselves immediately with a very strong case in the EU Referendum debate.

This could also be a chance to regain the student vote. The tuition fees pledge put the nail in the coffin for us, and I know even from among my friends at school that support for the Lib Dems among younger age groups is incredulously low.

However, by strongly putting forward the case for having the minimum voting age for the EU Referendum reduced to 16, I think a lot of ground could be regained here.

So I’d urge today for the 8 remaining Liberal Democrat MPs to do everything within their power at the House of Commons to campaign to lower the voting age for the EU Referendum, so that the Lib Dems can show once again to the British electorate that we still stand for young people and although we’ve been bruised, we won’t stop fighting for the Britain of freedom, fairness and opportunity that only the Liberal Democrats have the courage to envisage.

* Alfred Motspur is a 14 year old student who is not currently a member of the Liberal Democrats, although he hopes to be in the future.

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19 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 27th May '15 - 3:29pm

    I support votes at 16 for the EU referendum, if only because EU nationals are being excluded. The referendum can’t be a Tory fix.

    I think in general it would be good to lower it to 16 for all elections, which is party policy, but I would be more indifferent if it were not for the EU national thing.

  • Besides, we can marry at 16, we can become taxpayers at 16 and we can leave home at 16,

    You can pay tax at five years old. Should we let five-year-olds vote in the referendum?

    And I’ve never seen the connection between being allowed to marry or leave home at 16, which only allow you to screw up your own life, and having the experience to be qualified to participate in deciding the future direction of the country.

    This could also be a chance to regain the student vote

    Unless they’re very precocious, students will be at least 18, so I don’t see how this will affect them.

  • John Redwood’s arguments need to be shot down quickly.

    “No-one who was 16 or 17… was saying that they specifically wanted to have a vote in the EU issue…” Well firstly, in Scotland very few 16 or 17 year olds wanted the vote – there certainly wasn’t a mass clamour for it, and a suspicion that Salmond did it only because he believed that the SNP would gain from it.

    “They weren’t really interested in the EU issue.” I suspect there are many over 18 who also aren’t really interested. But if you want to get some figures on where 16 and 17 year olds did actually vote on a constitutional matter, about 68 – 70% of them did in Scotland. They became engaged, asked questions, held debates, and showed a level of maturity in discussing the issue that, to be honest, was many times greater than the so-called adults on both sides of the argument.

    UKIP’s idea of them being “brainwashed” in schools? Not the case. In Scotland, study of the EU is covered as part of the Modern Studies course, being examined up to Higher Grade (A-level equivalent.) Most schools don’t cover it, because that part of the course is boring for pupils and staff, so UKIP needn’t feel that they are arguing against a fixed mindset (they may find that many pupils don’t agree with them because of other policies, but that’s another issue.)

  • Good stuff Alfred – hopefully if successful this might be your first vote. We are drafting a council motion along these lines, it will involve getting 14/15 year olds onto the electoral roll in readiness, and will need the council to engage with younger groups in schools – this isn’t something that can be sorted out at the last minute.

    There should be a majority in the Lords for votes at 16, it may well be a concession we can force out of the Conseratives.

  • Alfred Motspur 27th May '15 - 5:31pm

    Well, Dav, as I hoped to have explained in my article, the case for having suffrage lowered to 16 and not even further is because of the amount of rights that 16-year-olds acquire at that age. Whether it’s a good idea to have those rights given to people at that age is another question entirely, but I hope that you can appreciate how it could be seen as unfair in the present day to be able to join the Army, to live away from home and to be able to have a National Insurance number whilst still being unable to participate in the UK’s democratic society, especially in such important life-affecting decisions such as that regarding whether Britain should stay in the EU.

    As Eddie Sammon said, it’s for these reasons that 16- and 17-year-olds should be enfranchised in all elections, although most particularly in referendums where we have important decisions to make, such as the one coming up on British membership of the EU. Like Keith Legg suggested, it’s not so much about whether they’re willing to vote too, but moreover about giving them the opportunity to vote if they wish to do so.

    As you correctly note, Dav, the minimum voting age is at 18, so campaigning for the minimum voting age to be lowered to 16 won’t directly regain the student vote seeing as 16- and 17-year-olds still can’t vote; however, by campaigning for the suffrage for the EU referendum to include 16- and 17-year-olds, the Liberal Democrats can put themselves forward again to the British electorate as the party that cares about the youth and will work to give the youth more of a role in our society, valuing their ideas and political beliefs and even trusting them, unlike the Tories and UKIP, to decide for themselves what is best for their country.

    Those under-18 youths will not always stay under-18 youths, and one day, of course, will be able to participate in the democratic society in the UK, with the knowledge that the Lib Dems had put themselves strongly forward as the party speaking for the youth a few years earlier.

    Furthermore, as I said in my article, youth support for the Liberal Democrats is quite low, especially in light of the tuition fees pledge. It is therefore vital, if the Liberal Democrats are ever going to have an electoral recovery, that the party reengages with the youth of today and puts itself forward as the party that speaks for them. This is the first perfect opportunity to do so.

    It’s for this that I think that the Liberal Democrats need to put the case forward – and strongly – for 16- and 17-year-olds to be enfranchised in the EU referendum.

  • I hope that you can appreciate how it could be seen as unfair in the present day to be able to join the Army, to live away from home and to be able to have a National Insurance number whilst still being unable to participate in the UK’s democratic society, especially in such important life-affecting decisions such as that regarding whether Britain should stay in the EU

    I don’t see that at all, actually. How are these things at all connected?

    Surely the only question to be asked about the age of franchise is, ‘at what age do we think people have sufficient knowledge, experience and general wherewithal to be given a say in deciding the nation’s future?’

    What else they can do at that age is not really relevant, unless it has a bearing on that kind of experience. I fail to see, for example, what the connection is between the assignment of national insurance numbers (which may in fact occur much earlier than 16, and is basically a bureaucratic exercise), and the degree of experience and ability to make political decisions someone has; perhaps you could enlighten me as to why this is a relevant comparison? Similarly, why we might think that the ability to live away from home has any connection to whether someone can make an informed contribution to the nation’s direction?

    What, exactly, is it that you think these 16-year-olds have to contribute that will not wait, and that they will not be able to express much better and with more knowledge and experience, just two short years later? What is so urgent that it cannot wait just two years, which is hardly a long time?

    (I suppose two years might seem an eternity to a 16-year-old; but this again is evidence for their lack of experience, as in time they will realise that it it not so, and until they do they will have a tendency to rush unwisely into things which, frankly, it would be better to avoid in decisions about the nation’s future; the nation, after all, has been around for many centuries (depending on how one counts) and will hopefully be around for centuries more; waiting two years to have a more informed say is rather small beer, I suggest, compared with that).

  • Stephen Hesketh 27th May '15 - 6:21pm

    I think there is much to gain and very little to lose by giving 16 year olds the vote – at all elections.

    Some of them will exercise their own judgement and some will be swayed by the values of their parents or by the media … so, much like the electorate at large.

    Next question?

  • I suggest voting be optional from 16 to 20, mandatory from 21 to 75, and optional again thereafter.

  • Alfred Motspur 27th May '15 - 6:38pm

    Whilst I understand your reasoning, Dav, and do understand that it’s not having a National Insurance number, being able to live away from home or being able to join the Army that makes someone politically ‘mature’, for the sake of not knowing a better adjective, these all show how much we trust 16- and 17-year-olds with very important decisions in their lifetime at their age, and yet we still do not trust them with suffrage. As I say, the reason why the minimum voting age should be lowered to 16 and not extended down to my age group or even lower is because of the amount of rights that youths receive when aged 16.

    I think it’s hard to gauge someone’s political maturity, but we have to note that there are plenty of adults that know very little about politics and still vote at elections nonetheless. I think it’s a very easy argument to make that 16- and 17-year-olds are not politically mature, but I think that this stance fails to address that this is at least partly because 16- and 17-year-olds have no reason to be politically mature. However, when they have a reason to be just this (such as when they are given suffrage), then they do interest themselves and they do engage in debates, and the active participation of youths in the Scottish Referendum proved this as they participated very articulately and very actively in the nationwide debate leading up to September the 18th, as Keith Legg said earlier.

    Besides, as I was saying earlier, there is a clear disengagement between the youth and politics, as I see myself with my classmates. I think it’s not unreasonable to suggest that this may in part be caused by the minimum voting age being set at 18, not at 16, so that young people do not learn about politics at a young age because there is simply no need to do so, and then they never interest themselves in politics in their later lives. I think that if 16- and 17-year-olds were enfranchised, then we would have a more knowledgeable and politically engaged generation.

    I do think that it’s quite wrong to suggest that all 16- and 17-year-olds are not politically mature: I think quite a fair proportion of them are, and I think that quite a fair proportion of them, given the chance to vote, would vote sensibly based on what they think is best for their own futures. Regarding your question as to why 16- and 17-year-olds can’t simply wait one or two years, I think it’s quite clear: in the context of the article, the EU referendum will be happening when they are 16 and 17, not 18 and 19, and this is such a monumental decision that will impact their lives so greatly that I think it’s only fair and right that they should be given suffrage too in a referendum that might never happen again in the future.

    Besides, youngsters will be the ones inheriting the outcome of the EU referendum, and so it’s important that their views are assessed as well as soon as they can make a reasonable and sensible political decision based on a fair assessment of what’s being offered, which I think the Scottish Referendum proved that 16- and 17-year-olds are more than capable of doing.

    In any case, like many adult voters, I’m sure that if 16- and 17-year-olds do not feel politically mature enough to vote, they will not turn up at the polling stations at all or instead choose to spoil their ballots. I am sure that there aren’t so many of them to be able wholly to change the outcome of the referendum anyway. I strongly agree with Stephen Hesketh for this: there is much to gain and very little to lose.

    [ great to hear, Tpfkar, and I agree: the referendum run-up starts now, not later! 🙂 ]

  • Keith Redwood 27th May '15 - 6:47pm

    Like Dav I was highly sceptical about 16 & 17 year olds voting in the Scottish Referendum last year. I was a teacher in a secondary school until I retired earlier this year so I can claim to have some understanding of teenagers!! We put on an event in school to give the pupils an opportunity to engage with some of the issues. I was blown away by the maturity and understanding shown by the pupils. They were also much more prepared to listen to opposing views, which is more than can be said for many of the adults involved in the referendum .

    I absolutely support giving 16 & 17 year olds the vote across all elections.

  • Little Jackie Paper 27th May '15 - 7:16pm

    ‘Besides, as I was saying earlier, there is a clear disengagement between the youth and politics, as I see myself with my classmates.’

    I’d agree that you have identified the right problem here. Can’t argue there.

    ‘I think it’s not unreasonable to suggest that this may in part be caused by the minimum voting age being set at 18, not at 16, so that young people do not learn about politics at a young age because there is simply no need to do so, and then they never interest themselves in politics in their later lives.’

    This however is arrant nonsense. ‘No need to do so?’ Are you serious? The young should absolutely be engaged and seeking to inform themselves. The young should absolutely be engaged with current affairs, they should be reading a wide range of newspapers and online material, be familiar with foreign affairs and the implications for the UK. There is EVERY need to be informed and any 16 year old saying otherwise is exhibit A in the case against votes at 16. It is your role as a, ‘young citizen,’ to inform yourself precisely because your politics are your own. Granted, the institutions of society (local and national) aren’t exactly busting a gut to do much to inform, still less meaningfully help the young. Granted also the idea of, ‘being informed,’ seems to be very hit and miss in schools.

    Back in the 1990s at school I was asked (without the internet) questions like, ‘What is going on in Rwanda,’ ‘Who is Alija Izetbegovic?’ ‘What do you think about the Colin Stagg case?’ That sort of thing doesn’t seem to happen now so much and I will let others make the value judgment on this. But if your generation can’t see the need to inform themselves about what’s going on around, and can’t see the relevance, them then I fail to see the case for a vote.

    Arguably there is a difference between the EU and Scotland referendums and an election – however government and politics are not and should not be single issues. What Mr Motspur are your views on triple locked pensions, on UK intervention in Syria or on events in Northern Ireland yesterday?

    ‘I think that if 16- and 17-year-olds were enfranchised, then we would have a more knowledgeable and politically engaged generation.’

    I’ll be honest with you Mr Motspur, I am astounded that your generation isn’t livid beyond words now. We are about to take the flamethrower to just about every function of the state whilst the boomer generation get a ringfence on the cookie jars and triple locks all round. The stark fact is that the young just aren’t taken seriously – I see the Redwood comment you quote as just him being honest about it. Don’t get me wrong, if I were 16 again now I probably would be disengaged to the point of not bothering. I have every sympathy.

    Only please don’t tell me, ‘there is simply no need.’ Crikey.

  • Surely the writer is a 14 year old pupil, not student, unless he is at university 4 years early?

  • Alfred Motspur 27th May '15 - 8:03pm

    Please don’t get me wrong, Little Jackie Paper: I’m not saying that the youth shouldn’t be engaged in political news and that all politics is useless, and I’m very sorry if it sounded as if I was saying this. Moreover, what I’m saying is that I understand how young people of my age and aged 16 or 17 might not feel the need to engage in politics because they can’t vote, and I think that, if instead those aged 16 and 17 were enfranchised, political engagement among the youth would heavily improve.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you: it’s of crucial importance that my generation makes sure that it informs itself of news at home and news around the world, and I think that I fall victim myself of not paying attention all-too-often too. I also understand how you might think that, consequentially, those aged 16 and 17 shouldn’t vote because they’re not engaged with politics, but I think that it’s because they can’t vote that they’re not engaged in politics, and I don’t think it should be the other way round.

    What I believe is that if 16- and 17-year-olds were enfranchised, then we would interest ourselves in politics and we would open our eyes, and I think the Scottish Referendum proved this: when our generation is given a voice, it thinks and it speaks, but when it’s not, it stays quiet and is – regrettably – probably too lazy to do otherwise.

    Regarding my views on triple-locked pensions, UK intervention in Syria and yesterday’s events in Northern Ireland, I don’t think I know enough to speak about triple-locked pensions to be able to speak about them, but I think that the Syria situation needs to be handled carefully to avoid a repetition of Iraq, where it’s arguable that British involvement worsened the situation, although we ought to be accommodating to Syrian refugees coming into the EU and take our fair share of them as the member state of the EU with the most prosperous economy, whilst ensuring that we avoid more UK citizens going to join the combat in Syria. If you’re referring to the welfare bill that failed in Northern Ireland yesterday, as far as I understand, I think it’s largely a devolution issue and I think that it probably would have been in Northern Ireland’s interests to have the bill pass in Stormont, rather than enabling London to have control over it, especially considering the level of welfare cuts that the Conservative government has proposed.

    But again, I would probably be able to talk in much more detail and at much more length if there was an active incentive for me to do so, which is what suffrage would be: a reason to find out more about politics and to engage with national and worldwide affairs. Of course, I’m not suggesting that the minimum voting age be lowered any more than to 16, but I’m saying that as a young person, I understand why one of my classmates probably wouldn’t bother informing themselves on the latest happenings at Westminster: they won’t be able to vote any time in the near future.

    Besides, I can’t help but think that, as has been said previously, it’s not just the youth that aren’t engaged in politics: I think a fair proportion of those who voted just three weeks ago probably didn’t vote being as knowledgeable about what they were voting for as they could have been. I also think that if I were to ask the average voter three weeks ago what their views were on triple-locked pensions, UK intervention in Syria or yesterday’s events in Northern Ireland, they probably also would not be as well-informed as they could be.

    Should we, therefore, have some sort of a pre-election test for every voter to decide whether they know enough about politics to vote? Well, even then, I would be inclined to disagree, not just because of the practicality of it but also because many voters might wish to vote on singular issues that are important to them, and London turning Labour, most likely as a result of Labour’s housing promises, probably demonstrated this: politicians offer the voters their viewpoints and the voters then respond at the polling stations. They might hear the viewpoints or they might not; they might understand them or they might not and they might turn up at the polling stations or they might not. What a voter chooses to hear, chooses to understand and chooses to prioritise is all a personal choice, and I don’t think it’s right to set a limit as to how knowledgeable a voter should be in order to vote.

    [ yep, TCO: not at uni yet 🙂 ]

  • Little Jackie Paper 27th May '15 - 8:36pm

    ‘What I believe is that if 16- and 17-year-olds were enfranchised, then we would interest ourselves in politics and we would open our eyes.

    I would dearly. dearly love to believe this. Frankly however I can’t share your confidence.

    ‘I don’t think I know enough to speak about triple-locked pensions to be able to speak about them.

    This is the problem though – I’m not asking what you know, I’m asking what your views are. If you dpn’t have views, go and form some. Politics is not an exam or a test – your politics are your own. Politics in its purest form is the allocation of power. The triple lock will probably be the defining fiscal decision in this parliament. If you want to vote, you should have a view on it – it is that simple. It might well be that your view is rubbish. It might be that my view on it is rubbish. But not having a view or not taking a view is little better than shallow passivity. That’s the worst starting point for political participation. I can’t remember who it was said that a passive-aggressive population is fine as long as the balances leans to the passive. Whoever it was they were right.

    ‘If you’re referring to the welfare bill that failed in Northern Ireland yesterday, as far as I understand, I think it’s largely a devolution issue and I think that it probably would have been in Northern Ireland’s interests to have the bill pass in Stormont, rather than enabling London to have control over it, especially considering the level of welfare cuts that the Conservative government has proposed.’

    I’m going to look for a hat so I can take it off to you for this.

    ‘Besides, I can’t help but think that, as has been said previously, it’s not just the youth that aren’t engaged in politics: I think a fair proportion of those who voted just three weeks ago probably didn’t vote being as knowledgeable about what they were voting for as they could have been.’

    I don’t disagree as such – but I don’t think knowledge is really the issue here. Politics in the sense of the behaviour can take any form, it may not even always be rational. But political views, values are not taught in a classroom or tested in an examination hall. If you can’t see that and you can’t look past the school experience into civil society then the case for a vote weakens I’m afraid.

    ‘many voters might wish to vote on singular issues that are important to them, and London turning Labour, most likely as a result of Labour’s housing promises, probably demonstrated this: politicians offer the voters their viewpoints and the voters then respond at the polling stations’

    So what? Voters can gauge politicians by whatever benchmarks they choose. Single issue, many issue it matters not one jot. Voters all have their interests and anyone that thinks otherwise is dumb.

    Anyway – some homework for you. I put this link on another thread, but it seems relevant here. I’d think this would appeal to you if you want something to chew on.

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/revolt-of-the-rich/

  • Graham Jones 28th May '15 - 9:37am

    At the two most recent schools where I’ve debated our membership of the EU in front of sixth-formers, only six out of about 120 students at the first voted to leave, and at the second only two. At both schools we were asked intelligent questions maturely put. At the second there was a queue of pupils wanting to challenge the UKIP speaker over things he had said. We can argue about the merits of giving votes to 16-year-olds, but for me the clincher is the unfairness of denying young people a vote over something which will affect their whole working and retired lives in one way or another. It’s particularly unfair on Scottish young people who were allowed to vote over their country’s continued membership of our domestic Union, but are being locked out of a vote on their country’s continued presence in the wider union which large numbers of Scots appear to value highly.

  • these all show how much we trust 16- and 17-year-olds with very important decisions in their lifetime at their age, and yet we still do not trust them with suffrage.

    We don’t trust them to drink, either, or to operate motor vehicles. We don’t trust them to enter into a tenancy agreement.

    It’s hardly the case that at the age of sixteen suddenly people are treated as being in full possession of adult faculties in all ways except they are denied the franchise.

    As I say, the reason why the minimum voting age should be lowered to 16 and not extended down to my age group or even lower is because of the amount of rights that youths receive when aged 16.

    But this is totally irrelevant. It doesn’t matter how many rights are granted at what age, what matter is whether peopel of that age are viewed as responsible adults.

    Probably the thing which most recognises responsibility is becoming eligible to drive; after all, that involves operating a piece of heavy machinery that can actually kill people if you use it irresponsibly or incompetently. As a metaphor for voting, you must admit it works far better than being able to get married (which, again, only wrecks your own life if you make a mistake) or ‘getting a national insurance number’, yes?

    So why pluck the figure of ’16’ out of the air when the thing which society grants eligibility for which really indicates people are trusted to behave responsibly with heavey machinery kicks in at 17?

    Or are you really saying it’s sensible that someone can be trusted to help decide the future of the country but not to drive?

    Regarding your question as to why 16- and 17-year-olds can’t simply wait one or two years, I think it’s quite clear: in the context of the article, the EU referendum will be happening when they are 16 and 17, not 18 and 19, and this is such a monumental decision that will impact their lives so greatly that I think it’s only fair and right that they should be given suffrage too in a referendum that might never happen again in the future.

    But this argument applies just as much — more — to 14-year-olds, 13-year-olds, ten-year-olds. They will also have to live with the results of the vote, for even longer, probably. So if the criterion for allowing a vote is ‘who will have to live with the decision?’ then shouldn’t we allow ten-year-olds to vote in the referendum?

    Either 16-year-olds are old enough to have a say in the future direction of the country, and you’re really not convincing me that they are, or they are not. The date of any particular referendum cannot be of any consequence because there will always, because of the arbitrary nature of such a cut-off, be some who just miss out on it — what about, if 16-year-olds were allowed the vote, the boy or girl who turns 16 two days after the date?

    The Scottish experience was a blatant attempt to gerrymander the electorate by the SNP, and should most definitely not be taken as a model; if anything quite the reverse, it should be used as a warning against manipulating the franchise in order to try to get the result you want.

    If you can’t get the result you want by persuading adults that yours is the correct side, you shouldn’t try to stuff the ballot box by recruiting children to your cause.

  • Alfred Motspur 28th May '15 - 11:27am

    Well, I would be inclined to argue that given the amount of rights that 16-year-olds are granted, then if the question is, as you say, “whether people of that age are viewed as responsible adults”, then there is quite a case for saying that 16-year-olds are viewed as responsible adults in light of the amount of rights that they receive. Although there is no common consensus on when one becomes a “responsible adult”, by most people, this is viewed as starting at 16.

    I agree with you that it would be more sensible to decide the minimum voting age based on when one can drive rather than when one can marry or the like; however, I’d still be inclined to say ’16’ given the amount of rights that 16-year-olds receive. Whilst you are quite right in saying that many of these rights are personal and do not affect wider society, I don’t think that this means that these rights require any less responsibility or sensibleness from teenagers: it is a big decision to get married and it is a big decision to join the armed forces or the like, and as you note, the consequences can be far-reaching if a bad decision is made, so despite however many people these rights affect, these rights are still important ones and their applications have consequences.

    Besides, surely one should be able to strike a cross on a ballot paper before one should be in charge of a heavy machinery road vehicle?

    Again, because this is such an important decision, I think suffrage should be given as soon as we can trust an age group to decide for itself what is best for its own future, especially for such important decisions like British membership of the EU where the impact of the outcome will be hugely life-affecting. Because of this, my line for the minimum voting age is drawn at 16 and not lower: firstly, because of the amount of rights 16-year-olds already receive; secondly, because the Scottish Referendum proved that 16- and 17-year-olds are more than capable of engaging and participating well in political discussions and debates.

    At the moment, I wouldn’t trust someone my age or a 15-year-old to make a sensible decision because, comparatively, 14- and 15-year-olds do not have as many life-affecting rights as 16- and 17-year-olds, which means they could be slightly less responsible at times, because they have quite limited life experience and because there is no precedent: whilst we know, thanks to the Scottish Referendum, that 16- and 17-year-olds are politically mature, we do not know the same for 14- and 15-year-olds yet. This is why my line is drawn at 16 and not lower as things stand.

    The premise for having given 16- and 17-year-olds the vote in the Scottish Referendum does seem likely to have been, as you suggested, their presumed likelihood to vote “yes” to independence, which the SNP believed would help them. However, I’m not applying the same premise here: as much as I’m pro-EU, it’s not because 16- and 17-year-olds are more likely to vote to stay in Europe, as UKIP suggests, that I would like them to be enfranchised in the EU referendum. I think that these kinds of ideas could be quite dangerous to our democracy.

    Whether the premise for having given 16- and 17-year-olds the vote in the Scottish Referendum was right or wrong, it is undeniable that 16- and 17-year-olds really participated in the nationwide discussion leading up to the debate, actively and articulately expressing and justifying their views, as has been said several times now in the comments, and this should have proved to everyone that 16- and 17-year-olds are capable of making informed decisions and are able to assess political situations fairly and to choose for themselves what is best for their own future.

    Although, as you say, their suffrage may have been an attempt by the SNP “to gerrymander the electorate”, this doesn’t mean that they haven’t proved themselves to be politically mature through their participation in the run-up to the referendum. I think that they proved themselves and consequently deserve to be enfranchised in this referendum too.

    There are only about 1.5 million 16- to 17-year-olds in the UK anyway, and not all of them would even turn up at the polling stations if they were enfranchised: they would not be the ones, ultimately, that wholly determine the future of our country, but they would get their fair say like anyone older than them, given that they are just as capable (as the Scottish Referendum proved) of deciding for themselves what they think is best for their own future.

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    Hear hear, Graham! I joined LDs in 2016 (then living in Oxon) & am proud to have done my bit as a footslogger for the excellent Layla Moran. But as Britain ...
  • George Thomas
    To be fair to the Brexit idea, it might still have been a success (or at least not as bad) if someone else had been in charge and worldwide circumstances hadn't...
  • Tim Rogers
    Interesting map. One of the least bregretful is Penrith and Borders which is a constituency where we topped the poll in last year's election. Cornwall is split ...