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Votes at 16!
Votes at sixteen is a campaign that I have always supported and I was pleased when the Scottish Parliament allowed 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the 2014 independence referendum. It was particularly heartening when the Parliament then legislated to lower the voting age for all subsequent Scottish elections (including local councils).
Last week, a (cross-party) private members’ bill to lower the voting age to 16 for parliamentary and other elections was presented to the House of Commons for its second reading.

I found myself in total agreement with the proposers of the bill – Peter Kyle MP (Labour), Norman Lamb MP (Liberal Democrat) and Nicky Morgan MP (Conservative) – who released the following statement:

“Opponents of reform have argued that 16 is an arbitrary age. However, in many crucial areas, such as in taxation, we already treat our 16-year-olds as responsible contributors to society. We grant economic rights without the correlating political rights. This should concern any democrat. And this is just one example. The experience from Scotland is that 16- and 17-year-olds are both capable and responsible enough to meaningfully engage with, and improve the vitality of, our democracy.”

Sadly, the Representation of the People (Young People’s Enfranchisement) Bill did not proceed as it was “talked out.” One MP even accused colleagues of a “corrupt and unfair filibuster” and demanded reforms into how private members’ bills are dealt with.

This is just one example of why I think that the democratic system of the United Kingdom needs a major overhaul, and it came just a few weeks after a series of “unrepresentative” results in the recent local elections.

We all know how at the 2017 General Election the Conservative Party secured 48% of the votes but won all six seats. In addition, there were many areas in England where the Conservatives won all – or nearly all – of the seats, while Labour was equally dominant in places such as South Wales, inner London and some metropolitan areas in the north.

But in London on 3rd May, there were three boroughs (Barking and Dagenham, Lewisham and Newham) in which all the elected councillors belonged to the Labour Party, leaving the local authorities with no opposition group or groups. Taking Lewisham as an example, Labour won all 54 seats on the Council with 52% of the popular vote, while the Greens (18.4%), the Conservatives (13.0%) and the Lib Dems (11.8%) did not win a single seat between them.

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By Dick Cole. Published on 21st May 2018.

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