UK Politics

Government is not “The X Factor”

The LibDems have launched a campaign to support the call for the voting age to be lowered to 16. They’ve been circulating an email appeal:

Over seven years ago as a member of Liberal Youth I stood outside our Bournemouth Conference in a wedding dress to protest the fact I could marry before voting. Sadly, not enough progress has been made over the last seven years and 16 year olds still can’t have their voices heard through their votes.

This week, our politicians are debating whether to give 16 year olds the right to vote in the European Referendum – a referendum David Cameron has described as “perhaps the most important decision the British people will have to take at the ballot box in our lifetimes”.

If this is the most important vote the British people will have to take, then 16 year olds need to get to vote in it. It’s not right to deny them their voice – especially because 16 year olds can leave school, get married, join the military and become a director of a company.

Liberal Democrats want to allow 16 year olds the right to vote. Will you stand with us and sign our petition to ensure that everyone’s voices can be heard?

This is insanity.

If you make the wrong choice to marry at 16 – and invariably it will be – you make things difficult for yourself and immediate family. The damage is limited. A legion of 16 year olds influencing the course of national politics is another question.

I remember my 16 year old self. I would not trust that person with the vote. People in their mid teens may be filled with passion and strong opinions, but these ought not be be inflicted on the nation. Sixteen-year olds are by nature impulsive, inward-looking and idealistic. There is nothing wrong with this. It is a normal part of human development. But it is not a basis for making rational and realistic choices about politics. Certainly not every adult is an ideal candidate, but at least generally speaking the average adult has learned some real-life lessons and their idealism has been tempered with an understanding that life demands compromise and practical accommodations – often reinforced with a few hard knocks.

Those who haven’t learned this, apparently, join the LibDems… or fall in behind Jeremy Corbyn. (And of course extending the franchise to teenagers is exactly what appeals to those who champion causes which rely on naive idealism and ‘passion’ rather than sense!)

A sixteen year-old is for all intents and purposes still a child, and for the most part will have lived a life sheltered from the realities which inform a more mature view on economics, international relations, employment, healthcare and pensions, and defence. It is absurd to essentially canvass their immature views on these through an extended franchise. Even the present age of 18 is pushing the boundaries of common sense, but there is no need to make matters worse.

In this social media obsessed world, it seems there is a growing obsession with “getting your voice heard”. But “16” is an age. not a status nor an ‘identity’. Today’s sixteen year olds will have plenty of time to have their “voices heard” – when they’re older! They just have to wait two years. Two years is a blink of an eye in “adult time”. The fact that it seems an eternity when you’re 16 is a perfect example of the skewed perceptions of time, priorities and urgency you have a teenager.

What’s more, sixteen year-olds should not be burdened with having to make decisions under the weight of the world at a time when their healthy ego-development is inward looking. This narrow-focussed self-regard  is a healthy state for the human at this age, but it should not be inflicted on the country.