of inactive voters and potential voters in the age group that tends to vote Labour more often than Tory.
Facing falling votes and the possible position where Scotland and its 41 Labour MPs may be going away
later in the year means they are facing the prospect of becoming a permanent opposition party.
Our democracy is facing significant problems, the number of people who feel that their votes have
become pointless grows steadily and new voters who come of age are all too often not bothering to
even start voting, an attitude that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives if it becomes habitual.
So rather than working to get people involved in democracy and to make politics something that people
care about enough to join in Labour are instead pushing this idea forward at a time when people are
becoming focused on the next election.
The idea behind this is a cynical Labour ploy based on the premise that the young tend to vote more
labour and old more Tory, they are looking at Scotland and a massive vote loss there and panicking.
Younger voters tend to lack the experience to make their choices so they use their passion, they have
not lived through failed democracies, politicians lies and all of the many other things that we associate
with modern politics. Basically they have not become as cynical as us old folk.
Sadly for them the orgaisations that offered them an education in democracy, debate and understanding
of what was going on around them have been closing in vast numbers across the country.
Yes I know many 16 year olds complain they know what is going on and can think for themselves but
the bottom line here is that we have a line where collectively they are treated as adults and 18 is
protection for a group of people who, as much as they deny it, are all too often still children.
Alcohol and cigarettes are only legal for 18 year olds though a great many under that age indulge in
drinking and ruining their health by smoking.
The British armed forces recruit at 16, a contentious situation given that at that age and with parental
consent they are legally bound to serve till they are 22. At 16 are they really best placed to know what
they want for the next six years of their lives. Enlisting at 18 is for only four years.
In terms of front line service and fighting, 16 and 17 year olds should not be placed into combat roles
except in times of war and even then the commanding officer must justify it. However we live in an era
when there is seldom such a thing as the front line and the uniform makes them a target even in their
base camps of walking the streets of their home towns.
It is very hard to justify allowing 16 year olds to serve in our armed forces while denying them a vote in
the very democracy they defend.
If we give 16 year olds the right to vote and a place in our democracy then we acknowledge they are
adult members of society. At that point we need to look at the age limits for smoking, driving and alcohol
as well since if we accept that they are adults in some ways treating them as children in others makes no
Either we say that they are adults and treat them as such in all ways or we say that they are not and
leave the limit at 18.
Back to voting. Schools, as far as I am aware, do NOT cover debate, politics or any of the background
subjects that are required to inform a 16 year old about just what he is voting for. A number of universities
do but this is only a limited number of people involved.
For the majority they are going to be informed by mainstream media and they are going to vote tribally
which is exactly why Labour is pushing this.
This problem within our democracy is being deliberately encouraged by our politicians; a well informed
electorate is the bane of our political parties. People who know what is going on and have the information
they need to make informed choices are very hard to lead by the nose to a voting booth.
Tribal voting and safe seats where people vote for the same party they have always voted for or would
never vote for the other party because, because, because, keep all too many Politicians in jobs and
gives the political parties a core vote that allows them to flip between themselves while blocking out any
By focusing on an age group likely to be more tribal in its voting habits Labour is simply taking advantage
Transparency in politics in the UK is an oft used word and it is utterly meaningless, if the electorate had
any idea what governments really gets up to our political system would be full of a lot of very angry voters.
By keeping us from knowing much of the things politicians do “In our names” the political parties know that
they can keep presenting the same old lies and we will never know better.
However we live in the information age now. Restricting knowledge is much harder, data is easy to uncover
and move around. Any person with a smart phone becomes a reported and film crew and can capture
events or words that politicians would rather not be repeated.
This makes it easier for people to see what is being done, but far too many people either do not listen or
do not care. Far too many people see politics as something they cannot influence and so do not try.
General election after general election just swaps the two main parties and things only ever seem
to get worse. What is there to choose between them?
Our democracy needs a good shake up, people need to be involved, they need to have the information at
hand to make informed choices. Getting them involved at an earlier age, if they are making informed
choices rather than following the latest trend, is generally a good thing.
Tribal voting, safe seats, these should be consigned to history where they belong.
Should 16 year olds be bought into the electorate?
That is a more complex question than just the voting. If they are to become adults in our democracy
then they should be adults in all ways, old enough to choose a government but not old enough to have
a beer afterwards makes no sense but that is something I doubt the politicians care about.
For politicians it is always the short term and the immediate gain, what is best for them regardless of
Simply giving 16 year olds the vote without looking at the greater picture will lead to problems in the
future, that doesn’t make it right or wrong, it simply makes it a more complex situation than most think
Something else has come out of this debate.
A good friend of mine, Hoz Shafiei, who apart from his sad addiction to iPhones is an outstanding person
and a passionate Humanist, founded and runs an organisation called Lobbi.
This organisation is all about supporting and encouraging Democracy in its many forms and is very active
in providing help to fledgling groups who are struggling to get going.
One of these groups is called “Bite the Ballot”. This group is made up of concerned young people who
want to the younger people involved in Democracy and voting by registering them to vote and
encouraging debates and discussions of politics so they know what is happening around them.
As we were discussing 16 year olds voting Hoz slipped in a link to this group.
This prompted another good friend Andy Rimmer to comment that their used to be a network of
organisations and people who were doing this, youth centres, outreach clubs and a profession
created to teach young people citizenship, ethics and social awareness.
Andy is one of these professionals and cares deeply about this subject, he is a good man with a great
heart and he often posts about how the regular cuts to youth support and services are hurting some
of the most vulnerable among this countrys young men and women.
As a result of these two talking Andy has agreed to provide advice and a lot of experience in this area
and I know he has already mentioned this to others in this field who are also agreeing to help.
This has the promise of helping many people, if you can teach the young how to think rather than telling
them what to think they will carry this with them throughout their lives.
Educating people and allowing them to form their own opinions rather than indoctrinating them and
telling them what their opinions should be.
This is something that can only benefit our democratic society and with it our freedoms and I hope it
is a great success.
I look at what is happening in the world and all too often what I see is islands of light where kindness,
compassion and caring people hold out against the darkness that surrounds us all. While numerous t
hese islands of light are slowly being crushed and some fade away and die.
It is nice to see the flickers of a new fire being started to push back the cruelty that all too much
of our lives entail and the heartless manipulation that is such a normal part of our politics.
I hope that this will result in another fire being lit and the darkness being driven back in this area.