Given how often young people have been accused of being disengaged with politics, it is truly remarkable to see the spectacle of Tory MPs using arcane bits of parliamentary process to prevent young people from being directly engaged in our democracy. This generation of young people has already seen their future hollowed out by a party which doesn’t care about their education and what it costs, that the idea of a stable job with decent pay is becoming increasingly quaint or that they will be well into adulthood before they can afford to move away from home. Now, they young people have again seen opportunity taken from them by Tory MPs worried about that giving them the vote will cost the Conservatives at the next General Election, as if that was an excuse for doing what’s right.
Whenever this issue has been raised in the past we’ve heard claims that young people are too inexperienced or too naive to be trusted with a vote. I’ve knocked on tens of thousands of doors over the years and I can tell you that the correlation between age and political awareness is very weak indeed. We often hear the argument that if people are old enough to pay tax or to serve in the armed forces then they should have a say in how those things are used. While I agree, I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable by this argument because democracy is not about what the state demands from you, it’s about your right as a member of our society to have a say in how it is run. The decisions of government affect us at any age and the legitimacy of the laws we are required to follow flows directly from the fact that we have a say in political process through which they are formed. Without a vote that legitimacy is highly questionable.
Votes at 16 is coming, not with this bill and maybe not with the next but sooner or later it will happen and, like every past social advance, we will look back and wonder how we could have been so wrong for so long.