SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Unite to trust our youth with the future

What it means to be a truly democratic society remains an ongoing, unfinished, story.

Thursday, 1st March 2018, 10:29 am
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 3:22 am
Sir Peter Bottomley

These words conclude the history of voting rights on the website of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

At home, Halarose has its Timeline of British Voting.

We were taught about the failed 1831 Reform Bill and the successful 1832 Great Reform Act, abolishing the rotten boroughs though still limiting voting to four per cent of the population.

After later changes that century, the Representation of the People Act in 1918 removed practically all property requirements for men, allowed the vote at 19 to military service personnel and gave the vote to 43 per cent of the electorate, women over 30 who met property qualifications.

We are now a century on from that partial move to gender equality.

The Equal Franchise Act came in 1928.

The 1969 Act reduced the age of voting to 18.

Now, nearly 50 years on, I am convinced that the age for registration to vote should be 16.

There are debating points that are not decisive.

There is no reason to have a common age for marriage, military service, buying cigarettes and for voting.

Here is a sensible approach.

Let us agree that the average age to be able to vote in a national election should be 18: to achieve that, voting eligibility needs to be 16.

With a general election every four years or so, half of new voters will still only be able to vote after 18.

The direct vote for an MP is an indirect vote for a national government that could be in place for up to five years. By then, even a 16-year-old will be over 21.

When I listen to students and apprentices at Northbrook MET, to A-level candidates at Worthing College or to an intern in my office from Angmering School, I do not think they are too young to vote.

The local youth councillors and youth mayors are impressive and sensible.

The National Youth Parliament shows the range of feeling and experience by students around the United Kingdom.

Do not approach this issue with calculations of party advantage.

Let us unite in trusting and engaging with our country’s future.


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