It was announced by the Labour-run Welsh Assembly on Saturday that the voting age will be lowered to 16 in May’s local elections. This is brilliant news for young people – and for democracy. The voting age was lowered to 16 in Scotland for the independence referendum in 2014 and was a huge success. Of the 3.6million people who voted, more than 100,000 were aged 16 and 17.
I strongly believe that the voting age should be lowered to 16 across the United Kingdom for all elections. When people reach 16, in the eyes of the law they are mature enough to get married, mature enough to become parents, mature enough to leave home and live by themselves, mature enough to get a job and mature enough to pay tax. But when it comes to voting in elections, they are not mature enough to cast a vote at the ballot box – a view that is endorsed by Tory MPs and party supporters.
The real reason why the Tories refuse to lower the voting age to 16 in England is because they fear that the majority of them will vote Labour – and after the way they have been treated by the Tories, who can blame them?
Young people from working class backgrounds have been hit hard by Tory austerity and party policies. The Tories have priced them out of enrolling in further education by revoking financial support like the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) that was set up by the last Labour government to help poorer students into further education. The Tories have also hiked tuition fees, closed careers offices and there has been a 27% drop in apprenticeships as they are not fit for purpose in their current form. And welfare cuts have also hit young people aged between 16 and 24 very hard.
The Tories have created a lost generation. Young people are leaving school and entering the adult world with no aspiration. They are the future of Britain but are being forced into zero hours contracts, low-paid work and unskilled labour. Some leave school and turn to drink, drugs and crime, while others end up living on the streets. Yet, young people from affluent backgrounds can afford to enrol in further education and get the best of both worlds. This is an example of inequality in Tory Britain.
Young people deserve a decent start in life regardless of their social background. They should have access to the skills and support they need to become builders, engineers, doctors, nurses, teachers and suchlike instead of Britain relying on cheap overseas labour. Young people have been given a raw deal by the Tories and it is simply not fair.
Jeremy Corbyn has reached out to young people and given them hope, and that is why many would vote for him. He has promised to scrap tuition fees, reinstate EMA, set up a National Education Service and invest in more apprenticeships – all of which will appeal to young people, while the Tories offer more of the same: no hope and more austerity.
In the event of another general election – and it is very likely that we will have another one sometime during 2018 – lowering the voting age to 16 would boost Labour’s chances of being handed the keys to Number 10. The Tories are losing support to people aged under 50, many of whom are veering towards Labour, but now people aged over 50 are beginning to do the same.
Changes to pensions has angered a lot of women born in the 1950s (known as the WASPI women) while older people who have saved for their retirement have now become the ‘bank of mum and dad’ as their children can not afford to buy or rent their own homes. And then there is the Tories’ Dementia Tax which has angered elderly people who will lose their homes to pay for their social care.
The Tories are in big trouble. As their elderly supporters die off and people aged over 50 continue veering towards Labour, lowering the voting age to 16 will boost Jeremy Corbyn’s chances of winning the next election. The Tories used to joke and laugh whenever someone said Jeremy Corbyn will he Prime Minister – but now that joke has become a reality. And the Tories are petrified.
The Tory Party slogan is ‘A country that works for everyone’. If Theresa May really does believe in her party slogan then she would lower the voting age to 16 in England. But we know she will not put her money where her mouth is because she is about as strong and stable as a chocolate fireguard.