Call for Conservatives to reach out to young people as Wales pushes ahead with votes at 16 #CPC18

Posted on the 2nd October 2018

  • Statement from Electoral Reform Society, for immediate release, 2nd October 2018
  • For further details or to arrange an interview contact [email protected]toral-reform.org.uk or 020 3743 6064

The Conservatives are under growing pressure to back votes at 16 and 17, after new plans were announced today to extend the franchise for Welsh Assembly elections.

The Welsh Assembly Commission has today announced it will push ahead with plans to extend the franchise under the Welsh Parliament and Elections Bill, and is due to table a motion for debate on October 10th [1]. The move has cross-party backing and follows campaigning by ERS Cymru (Wales).

The change would see Wales follow Scotland, where 16 and 17 year olds can vote in all Scottish Parliamentary and local elections. The change was passed unanimously in Holyrood in 2015 after winning the support of Scottish Conservatives, including Ruth Davidson.

In light of the proposed legislation in Wales – and pressure on the Conservatives to reach out to young people – the Electoral Reform Society is challenging the government at Westminster to create a ‘united franchise’ across the United Kingdom. The ERS say Parliament’s ‘dismal’ record on democratic reform has been brought into focus the changes.

Last night (Monday), former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan called for her party to extend the voting age at a panel event in Birmingham.

Peter Kyle MP’s Private Members’ Bill seeking to extend the franchise to 16 year olds will have its 2nd reading in the House of Commons later this month. [2]

The Electoral Reform Society recently published ‘Civic Duty: The Conservative Case for Votes at 16 & 17’, featuring contributions from Sir Peter Bottomley MP, Miles Briggs MSP, Nicky Morgan, Tory Reform Group chair Owen Meredith and others [3].

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“These plans to extend the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds in Wales put Westminster’s dismal democratic record in sharp relief. Scotland and now Wales are modernising politics – boosting political engagement and inspiring young people to become active citizens. It’s time for the UK government to follow suit.

“Disconcertingly for a party of union, the United Kingdom will soon be desperately divided when it comes to the voting age and how we empower a new generation.

“But while 16 and 17 year olds are likely to get the vote for Welsh Assembly elections, they will be denied a voice at Westminster.

“We have seen from Scotland that young people are ready and willing to be given this democratic responsibility – and many of the voices who opposed it in 2014 now unequivocally support it, having seen young people’s huge enthusiasm.

“The United Kingdom isn’t just about pooling resources, but pooling ideas too. Scotland shows that votes at 16 is tried, tested and proven to boost civic engagement and a sense of citizenship among young people.

“The Prime Minister has the opportunity to build a legacy of positive reform: to extend civic duty and create a truly united franchise in the centenary year of women’s suffrage.”

Jess Blair, Director of ERS Cymru, said:

“These changes are a vital step towards a fairer franchise for Wales and the UK as a whole. Young people in Wales can soon have a real say on their future and the issues that affect them. Alongside a revolution in citizenship education, Wales is leading the way in empowering a whole new generation of active citizens.

“The National Assembly for Wales is setting a positive example for Westminster – it’s time the UK government followed suit in backing a franchise fit for the 21st century.

“There is a widening gulf between people and politics which we can help reverse by nurturing active and engaged young citizens. When young people help build a deep and diverse political debate, we all benefit.”

ENDS

Notes

[1] To see full press release/for more information on the Assembly proposals contact National Assembly media relations on 0300 200 7487 or email [email protected]

[2] https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2017-19/representationofthepeopleyoungpeoplesenfranchisement.html

[4] See https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Civic-Duty-The-Conservative-Case-for-Votes-at-16-and-17.pdf and press release https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/conservatives-ramp-up-calls-for-pm-to-back-votes-at-16/

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