Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Should we lower the voting age to sixteen? 16?

Commenting on the Labour party's piss-poor membership (A 60% drop since 1997), a Labour spokesman said:
"Our membership levels are stable and are published in our accounts annually. "We continue to attract new members every week - in fact there has been a 15% increase in the number of 15 to 27-year-olds joining the party."
This got me wondering about all the talk lately relating to lowering the voting age to 16. Back in February last year Hilary Benn wrote the following in an article for Guardian:
We must not ignore the younger electorate in a fight for older swing voters who we can be confident will go to the polls. The next general election will be decided in super-marginals. Motivating younger voters is therefore both the right thing to do and it could make the difference between Labour winning and losing the next election.
This policy also has the backing of Gordon Brown (If that means anything now). I don't like the idea of giving sixteen year olds the vote. There are too many sixteen year olds nowadays that can barely string a sentence together, never mind having any idea about politics. I read a great comment on the BBC website which came from a guy called James: Quite daft. Far more sensible is to require five years employment before you qualify to vote. You know? I think he may be on to something there.

UPDATE: I think I should clarify my position on this subject. Whilst I believe that the idea of only allowing those who have worked for five years the right to vote would mean we have a more informed electorate, I still believe that is a basic right to vote at 18.


Unknown said...

John Stuart Mill argued that the bright and educated could make informed decisions about who to vote for and could accept that some hardship was due in bad times and that a government had to make hard decisions to go with hard times. He beleived that the educated would know this and vote accordingly and not on impulse. He made the case that the uneducated masses, if given a vote, would vote out of self interest.

This seems to be the case you too are making in many ways.

Personally, I would follow the principle of no taxation without representation. If you don't allow 18 year olds to vote then they should not have income tax deducted. Only upon getting the vote should income tax be levied.

Mulligan said...

There is a very simple explanation why they want to lower the voting age to 16, because most of us at that age didn't have to worry about taxes, paying bill or being successful in work ,and would have been rabid green if that had even been on the radar, and therefore had serious socialist tendencies, I'd have certainly voted Labour at 16.

I rather expect the majority of 16-18 year olds today would also be more likely to vote Labour than Tory. If the powers that be didn't also think this it wouldn't even be up for discussion.

William Gruff said...

Norfolk Blogger you are laughably naïve. The 'bright and educated' vote with just as much self-interest as 'the uneducated masses'.

Out of interest: what is your education, and how does it fit you to make less self-interested decisions than those you consider less educated?

CalumCarr said...

The educated don't / won't act out of self-interest.


John M Ward said...

The majority of voters vote from a point of view of self-interest. I wish it were not so, and that we were as a society simply tapping into an intellectual resource that would help make our country a better place.

Alas, it is not so.

Notwithstanding all of this, there is a need for consistency of approach and a stable and sensible approach to voting; and the present "18 years old and over" policy is in fact the most balanced policy.

There are very good reasons why the age of 18 is a sensible one (despite understandable arguments I have read for raising this to 21) and we need to accept this and live with the consequences of such a policy. I'd rather do that -- even if it skewed the outcomes of elections a little "unfavourably" (as some of us might view it) on occasion -- than go either alternative way (i.e. to 16 or to 21).

This is one of those questions that has actually been answered correctly; and that will pprobably not change for generations, if ever. Now, that doesn't happen every day...

Unknown said...

William Gruff,

I am educated enough to know that I was writing about John Stuart Mill who himself was writing more than 12 years ago. I was not writing in a personal capacity so am amazed that you think that I share the views of someone I was writing about.

My own personal opinion was stated at the end of the piece. Please go back and re-read what I wrote.

I do not agree with JS Mill, but was merely drawing a parallel.

When talking about the laughably naive you do need to be carely not to make yourself look laugably illiterate.

Anonymous said...

Yes let`s bring it down to 16 or even lower. So that it`s all about greenery and more free EU trips,close down all nuclear and coal power stations,car driving at 16 with free insurance. Bring it down to 6 and all the toy and sweetshops will be free.

William Gruff said...

Norfolk Blogger wrote: '... you do need to be carely not to make yourself look laugably illiterate.'

Yes indeed.

William Gruff said...

PS: I do owe you an apology though NB. I did misread your post (alcohol and fatigue are lethal when combined with late night blogging) and jumped to the wrong conclusion, for which I apologise.