Friday, 11 May 2018

Sweet Sixteen?

Where are the 16 and 17-year-olds marching, going on hunger strike, chaining themselves to railings, and throwing themselves under horses, to demand the right to vote? What do you mean, "There aren't any"? 

Instead, this very day, we see them wandering around in their defaced school shirts on this last day before the exams. Right at the moment that Parliament is debating a Bill to give them the vote.

I have tried and tried with votes at 16, but I just don't get it. It used to be a way by which Brownites distinguished themselves from Blairites, and it now seems to be a way by which dispossessed Cameroons mark themselves out in Theresa May's Conservative Party. But who cares about either of those feuds now?

18 is the voting age in most European countries, in every American state (each of which is free to have a lower one, though not a higher one), in Canada, in Australia, and in New Zealand.

16 is the voting age in Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man. That might be useful for securing the election of supporters of economic equality to the States of Jersey, to the States of Guernsey and to Tynwald. But only while Corbynism was still the political phenomenon of the moment. Sixth Formers might very soon be libertarians or something instead.

After all, Labour lowered the voting age in Britain to 18, and then unexpectedly lost the 1970 General Election to a Conservative Party with, as has been almost completely forgotten, a decidedly proto-Thatcherite programme at the time.

You see, not only are you only young once, but you are only young for a very short time. If votes at 16 were enacted now, then the beneficiaries in 2022 would only be 12 today. We have no idea what today's 12-year-olds are going to think about anything. Except to make the very good guess that it will quite consciously be as unlike the views of today's 16-year-olds as possible.

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