MPs are about to turn Theresa May’s headache over the youth vote into a full-blown nightmare

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The Conservative government got a nasty shock during the last election. Young people, who were written off as politically apathetic, turned out to vote in their numbers. And two thirds of them voted for Jeremy Corbyn.

But now, this problem could become a real nightmare for the Conservatives. A cross-party private member’s bill is aiming to lower the age for voting to 16. And not only could it mean more young voters going to the polls, but it also threatens yet further splits in the party. Theresa May is against the bill. But The Mirror reports that Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson is backing the proposed change.

Time for change

Labour MP Jim McMahon is leading the campaign for votes at 16. McMahon stated:

If we want to have discussions about civic engagement and educating a new generation in the importance of being politically aware, then empowering young people to vote is the springboard we need.

The proposed change is also backed by Cat Smith, the Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs. Smith believes the government “doesn’t have a leg to stand on”.

Meanwhile, Green MP Caroline Lucas nailed the “hypocrisy” of the current situation:

Let’s give 16 and 17-year-olds the vote and end the hypocrisy which sees them able to marry and join the Armed Forces but unable to vote for the MPs who make the laws they live under.

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Additionally, 16-year-olds can become company directors, give their consent for medical treatment, and pay tax.

Scotland and Wales

Changing the voting age would bring UK elections in line with Scotland, where 16 and 17-year-olds can vote in all local elections. And things could be changing in Wales, with recommendations that the voting age should be reduced to 16 for local elections.

Speaking about the proposed changes, a spokesperson for the National Union of Students in Wales said:

For too long, young people have felt disconnected and disenfranchised, so extending the vote to 16 and 17 year olds would be a brilliant first step to righting that wrong.

May’s nightmare

The proposed changes are set to be a battlefield for May. She stated that:

We expect people to continue in education or training until the age of 18, and I think that is the right point for the voting age.

But she is facing opposition from fellow Conservatives, including Davidson – who said she was a “fully paid-up member of the votes at 16 club”.

It is perhaps no wonder that May doesn’t want young people to vote given her party’s record of screwing over young people. But it’s time that young people were given a voice. And if a 16-year-old is old enough to join the army, they are certainly old enough to vote for the people who’ll be sending them to fight.

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Support the Votes at 16 campaign.

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