Conservatives ramp up calls for PM to back votes at 16

Posted on the 10th July 2018

New report sees Conservative figures including Nicky Morgan MP and Sir Peter Bottomley MP mark centenary year of suffrage by calling for a ‘united franchise’ across UK.

Senior Conservative party figures are renewing calls for the Prime Minister to back votes at 16, in a new pamphlet for the Electoral Reform Society.

The publication – backed by the Tory Reform Group [1] – follows the 90th anniversary of equal suffrage between men and women last Monday – and adds momentum to demands for a ‘fairer franchise’.

It follows the recent backing for votes at 16 and 17 from figures including George Osborne and Nicky Morgan.

A private members’ bill to extend the franchise is currently making its way through Parliament – and is garnering cross-party support [2].

The pamphlet will be officially launched in Parliament on Tuesday, July 10, at an event for Conservative MPs.

Key extracts:

  • Nicky Morgan MP: “In the same way that allowing all men and women to vote seemed a brave step forward – but is now something we wonder why it took so long to achieve – the time has now come to allow votes for 16 and 17 year olds.”
  • Sir Peter Bottomley MP: “My appeal to Conservative, Labour and supporters of other parties who oppose this is not to approach this issue with calculations of party advantage. The United Kingdom’s democratic story is more important than that.”
  • Miles Briggs MSP: “I believe we should as a party lead this positive change…an extended franchise would not only be a forward-looking step for our party, but would strengthen the bond between our young people and our Union. Because there is a lot to be gained – both for the Conservative Party and our country – in embracing this shift. Whatever the case, the wheels have been set in motion and the brakes will only hold for so long.”
  • Lisa Francis, former AM: “It cannot be right that we currently have different voting rights in different parts of the UK. And not just between Wales/Scotland and the rest of the UK: within the Conservative Party it frankly makes no sense at all that some senior Conservatives bang on about 16-year-olds not being mature enough to vote, when the party’s own rules allow 16- and 17-year-olds to become full members of the Party – which includes voting rights in party leadership contests.”
  • Owen Meredith, National Chairman, Tory Reform Group: “In changing the floor in the voting age to 16, we would – I hope – see more young people engage in the politics that will shape their lives…we will simply achieve what most already assume to be true, lowering the average age at which we first vote closer to 18.”
  • Cecilia George, former MYP: “If we trust 16- and 17-year-olds to make contributions to national security, our tax system and building future generations, our democratic system should be mature enough to let them vote. A party that rewards them with that trust could be trusted in return.”

Launching the report, Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society:

“Votes at 16 and 17 is now a question of when, not if, for UK elections – not least given the reality in Scotland and Wales. With more and more Conservatives joining calls for a fairer franchise, there is a huge opportunity to extend the civic duty of voting to a new generation.

“As we have seen in Scotland, 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.

“We have a divided union when it comes to the franchise, but there is a real chance to put that right and take a lead.

“The Prime Minister should listen to these calls from her own party: they are growing day by day. The PM can build a legacy of positive reform, for a new civic duty, and for a united franchise.”

In Scotland, 16 and 17-year-olds can vote in all local and Scottish Parliament elections, and took part in the Scottish independence referendum.

And in Wales, proposals have recently been put forward which could see 16 and 17-year-olds enjoy equivalent voting rights to their Scottish counterparts.

Now Conservative voices are calling for a ‘united franchise’ across the UK – with an extended civic duty to engage in formal politics.

ENDS

Report now available here: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Civic-Duty-The-Conservative-Case-for-Votes-at-16-and-17.pdf

Notes to Editors

[1] Tory Reform Group chair Owen Meredith has backed the report in a blog for TRG: https://www.trg.org.uk/national-democracy-week-time-to-extend-the-franchise-talkdemocracy/

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

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