Getting married, joining the armed forces or becoming a director of a company all seem pretty major life decisions, ones that I was able to make by myself when I turned 16. However voting for a government (that I was also able to pay taxes to at 16) that could shape the society I lived in was not.
Over 1.5 million 16 and 17 year olds are denied the vote in General Elections in the UK today. The current Tory government, propped up by the DUP, are shutting young people out of politics because they do not agree with the Conservatives’ failed austerity agenda. This system in which people can contribute but not have their say not only shuts people out but leads to the systematic disillusionment with politics that only serves the Tories.
The increase in youth vote in the recent election shows that young people rightly see politics as our game. Whilst the Tories peddled the patronising narrative that young people were “tricked” into voting Labour because of the party’s ambitious agenda for education, that’s simply not true. Young people believe in the future the Labour Party sets out. Let’s leave behind the narrative that young people are uninterested in politics for once and for all.
If we give the vote to 16 and 17 year olds it will give them the power they deserve to be able to engage with and influence key decisions that affect their lives.
The campaign for votes at 16 has now been running for eighteen years, so why is it suddenly important now? The youth engagement we saw at the snap election this year, as well as growing concerns about intergenerational unfairness, has created a renewed interest in Votes at 16 across the political spectrum. On 3 November, Jim McMahon MP will be presenting a Private Members Bill on Votes at 16 in the House Commons, over the week ahead make sure you tweet your MP to make sure they attend the debate.
This week let’s ensure that our democracy is one that listens to the many and not the few.
Co-Chair at Sheffield Labour Students