Cecilia George is a former Member of Youth Parliament for Wiltshire and wrote this piece for our pamphlet Civic Duty The Conservative Case for votes at 16 and 17.
16–year–olds are deemed mature enough to join the army, pay taxes, get married with parental consent and even have relationships that could lead to parenthood. And yet time and again I am told my friends are “not mature enough to vote”.
Call me cynical but surely – anyone who contributes financially to the state and, indeed, able to risk their life for it, should have a say in how it is run.
The UK has an aging population meaning that, as society grows older, young people will become increasingly underrepresented if the current situation continues.
Yet as a sophisticated and long–established democracy, the UK should be exploring additional ways to increase the representation of its citizens and their interests.
Improving levels of education, and increased awareness of politics have meant that it has never been easier for young people to wrestle with the world of politics and understand party policies. We are more clued up on politics than ever before – and yet our voice is nowhere to be heard in the halls of power.
Right–wing parties need to address the concerns of young people – both through our campaigns and by creating policies that work for them. The current situation – denying 16– and 17–year–olds a say – does the Conservatives no favours.
Jeremy Corbyn appeals to the young because of his shameless targeting of their anxieties, notably around university fees. But while the aims are laudable – I speak as someone about to embark on tertiary education and saddle myself with a mountain of debt – his sums just do not add up, if we want to keep running other national services at a high standard.
We hear so many idealistic, empty promises, swaying towards the left of the political rainbow.
And we hear the ramblings of the Corbynistas. But this is arguably because they thrive on opposition. (Having the Conservative Party in power, means articles containing the latest Tory updates are easy for young Corbynistas to share and complain about.)
The loud, virulent ranting of young left wingers creates the illusion that there is a larger proportion of young people supporting the left than there is in reality. And – while it may currently be a majority – that can change.
Aside from Theresa May’s absence from Glastonbury, there are many reasons why the Tory party have fewer than 10,000 young members while Labour have over ‘15,000 in London alone’.
But given the responsibility of voting – and the political education and in–depth conversations to go alongside it – we can tell that someone with Jagger–like status is not really who we want for PM. Not all young people are so gullible.
There’s an understandable fear that opening voting to younger people could possibly lead to an eternal winter of Labour government. But Generation Z are yet to experience a Labour government – they are not truly aware of the implication of the sort of socialist policies which lead to the former chief secretary to the Treasury, in last Labour government, Liam Byrne, leaving a note for his successor which said “there’s no money left”.
But 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.
Read Civic Duty - The Conservative Case for Votes at 16 and 17