I must have missed the stories about 16 year olds throwing themselves under horses at the Derby and chaining themselves to railings, because apparently the Labour Party have decided to extend the franchise to 16 year olds.
Obviously, not all 16 year olds would actually get a chance to vote in a general election, but every 5 years some lucky year 11s would win the franchise lottery.
In return, politicians (including fringe politicians) would have to be allowed into schools because until the end of the school year in which they are 16, pupils are obliged to attend school. Given the current scandals, that in itself should be enough to kill this thoroughly bad idea. But it gets much worse. Schools themselves would be politicised (please vote for x as we’ll get more facilities). Pressure would be placed on 16 year olds by their parents, their teachers, their local politicians and each other. 16 year olds would be every politician’s dream: a captive audience.
The Labour Party may see this as a free boost for them, a clever piece of gerrymandering. But if my childhood memories aren’t totally distorted I would expect UKIP-style politics to fare very well in the playground. This will inevitably lead to an increase in racial and class-based bullying.
Our feeling is that this is a cynical attempt to exploit rather than empower. We feel it would be better to help 16 year olds get on with each other, not to invite them to dwell on their differences.
The 18 limit is the age of majority and widely accepted. If Labour opens it up to 16 years olds, what is to stop a future right-wing government pushing it down to 14 or 15 when their polls show that group are more conservative?
A convention has arisen for constitutional changes to be put to a referendum. A move this controversial must be put to the people. If the Labour Party want to show they are serious about this, they should commit to a referendum on this issue in their next manifesto.