I’m resigned to the fact that at some point in the future, a Labour government will extend the franchise to 16 year olds. This is foolish.
On Wednesday, Emily Thornberry deputized for Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions and used all six of her questions to make the demand that the Government lower the voting age.
She first compared it to the enfranchisement of women a century ago, a self-evidently asinine move.
She then said: “There is no logical, principled objection to votes at 16. That is why the Welsh and Scottish government support it. That is why every single political party in this House supports it, except of course the Conservative Party and the DUP.”
This is self-evidently wrong, there are numerous principled reasons to object to this policy.
On social media much was made of the fact that 16 years olds cannot go on a sun bed. This is, of course, because there are health risks. But the critical point is that 16 year olds are judged in the main too immature to make an informed decision about the risks of using a sunbed.
Among other prohibitions, 16 years old cannot buy alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco products, fireworks, solvents and lighter refills or knives, blades and axes. They cannot legally drive car on UK roads. With exceptions for the lottery and pools they cannot gamble, nor enter a bookies to place a bet.
These are all perfectly wise restrictions. There are, I imagine, very few advocates of lowering the voting age ready to extend, at the same time, the right to buy, consume or indulge in these prohibited items. The law judges 16 year olds to be too immature to make these decisions for themselves. Quite right too.
Another classic argument from the votes for children lobby is ‘they can join the army, why not let them vote?’ Utter bunkum. 16 year olds need parental permission to join the armed forces and they do not participate in combat roles.
We’ve all heard the ‘they pay taxes, let them vote’ line, but this is another straw man. A 9 year old will pay VAT if they use their pocket money to purchase certain items at the counter – should we allow them a say over the rate? In any case, in England 16-18 year olds must be in part-time education or training, which means many will not pay income tax.
Left-wingers contradict themselves all the time. They were quick to defend Jared O’Mara, the disgraced MP, for his puerile comments based on his immaturity at the time … a man in his twenties. Owen Jones defended his previous support of the IRA expressed at sixteen based on immaturity. Yet we are told that 16 year olds are mature enough for the vote? This doesn’t add up.
The scientific evidence is compelling. It has been established that our brains are still underdeveloped in our teen years, which explains a lot about their tendencies for reckless and irresponsible behaviour, risk taking and lack of judgement. The brain’s pre-fontal cortex helps us manage our emotions, consider moral dilemmas and think abstractly, and this is not fully developed in teenagers.
If, as a society, we are to declare 16 years olds mature enough to elect a government, then logically we should lift all other restrictions and begin treating them as adults. They should be sentenced as adults for their crimes and they should be allowed to serve as jurors. Let them legally drive on our roads and get married without parental permission in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. If they can elect MPs, why can’t they become MPs? What with them being so mature and all.
Will the votes for children lobby support this? Will they also be happy for 16 year olds to be amongst the jury if ever they or a family member is accused of a crime? If not, why not?
The actual reason left wing political parties support this is nothing to do with a logical or principled position and everything to do with their belief that it will equal more votes for them. All this grandstanding over it is the very height of disingenuousness and deep down they know it. There are no decent arguments in favour and it is time the campaign for it was stopped in its tracks and pushed back.