Blogs Coffee House

Take it from a teenager: 16-year olds shouldn’t be able to vote

27 September 2013

10:30 AM

27 September 2013

10:30 AM

Like Charles Moore in this week’s Spectator, I am inclined to wonder whether there is ‘any conceivable good reason’ why 16-year-olds should have the vote. As a teenager interested in politics, I found not being eligible to cast a ballot until this year frustrating but reasonable. The idea that, at 18, I would become an adult, and as an adult I would be able to vote, made perfect sense. Departing from this principle by picking an arbitrary voting age is, as Moore points out, a slippery slope: what about all those politically oppressed 8 year olds?

It is never argued that 16-year-olds should have the vote as part of a broader scheme to lower the age of majority – which is what happened to 18-year-olds in 1969 and which would at least be a logical policy suggestion. Instead, those in favour of extending the franchise talk about ‘seeding respect for the political process’ and ‘increasing civic engagement’. Democracy is not a glorified lesson in Personal, Social and Health Education (or PSHE, as social classes are now called). If you maintain, as everyone seems to, that 16-year-olds aren’t qualified to sign a mobile phone contract, how can you possibly think them qualified to choose their government? Maybe the answer will become clear once I’m 21.

[Alt-Text]


Charles Moore is slightly less convincing when excluding 16-year-olds from the electoral roll on the grounds that very few of them pay tax. Although the rising school leaving age will soon make it virtually impossible to be under 18 and a taxpayer, there are plenty of adults who are also net drains on the country’s finances. Does this mean that people who have never worked a day in their lives shouldn’t vote?

As for who will benefit from this, well, Labour thinks it can get a boost in the polls from this policy. But whether or not the average 16-year-old has sufficient political awareness to cast a ballot, they can certainly detect an attempt to use them as vote fodder.


More Spectator for less. Stay informed leading up to the EU referendum and in the aftermath. Subscribe and receive 15 issues delivered for just £15, with full web and app access. Join us.



Show comments
  • Man of Sin

    16 year olds can drive and endanger lives though.

  • Man_Of_Sin

    Most 18 year olds are not politically aware either.

  • Nick Hart

    ‘Does this mean that people who have never worked a day in their lives shouldn’t vote?’ You mean ‘no representation without taxation’?

  • mightymark

    Brilliant article – so good in fact that I’d erm ……… give her the vote.

  • Rocksy

    Since all of government is about spending money, the only people who should have a vote are the people who pay taxes. Just imagine a world where politicians had to actually appease the people who fund all their junkets and welfare payments etc. etc.. Of course not a penny would go in so called ‘aid’.

  • Eddie

    Just how much ‘political awareness’ do most voters have? Most people simply vote like their parents, and often like their communities (or else they’ll get bullied and ostracised).

    I’d be surprised if more than a third of voters had adequate intelligence to think about anything political in any depth anyway. Maybe less than 10% are educated and aware enough to vote intelligently with an eye on the long-term. So that’s why we get constant short-termism from our governments – huge debt, unregulated mass immigration, silly house price rises – all damaging but bribes to get short term votes.

    And don’t most people just vote for their own self interest anyway? Isn’t that why Dave n Ed are trying to outbribe each other with their offers to the electorate (yet more free cash maternity and grandma pay and childcare for very rich property owning families, to get that women’s vote and middle class vote eh?)

    Dictatorship looks more attractive by the day. China seems to do OK.

  • marksl

    It is good to see Carola Binney writing in the ‘Spectator’ as well as in the ‘Telegraph’. But it suggests that betweeen leaving Oxford High School and going up to University shortly she has not taken a proper job in which she had to work with her hands and serve people face-to-face. She would have had more relevant experience if she had worked at Greggs bakery or served in a restaurant in Oxford for the last few months. She needs to learn what ordinary people have to do to earn a living, and how the capitalist system works at ground level. Newpaper offices do not show you that.

  • Smithersjones2013

    There is something more than grubby about the idea of the establishment political underclass wooing 16 year olds. It evoke images of Miliband dressed in a grubby mac proferring a heavily wrinkled bags of somewhat sticky heat damaged (from his pocket) lemon sherbets.

    ” I’ll give you a sweety if you give me your vote”, he says

    ” Vote for Pa Ed o Miliband

    • Kennybhoy

      Oh God the pictures… the pictures…can’t get them out of my mind!

      Industrial strength brain bleach please!!!!

  • Noa

    “But whether or not the average 16-year-old has sufficient political
    awareness to cast a ballot, they can certainly detect an attempt to use
    them as vote fodder.”
    But would they care?

    Would they vote for Justin Bieber if he succeeded Cameron? Or Lady GaGa if she replaces Ed Miliband?
    Would we?
    After all, how much worse could they be?

  • http://theunrecordedman.wordpress.com/ TheUnrecordedMan

    No, of course people who have never worked a day in their lives shouldn’t have a vote. If they didn’t then the Labour party would no longer have an incentive to make as many people as possible welfare dependent so as to assure they vote Labour.

  • Mynydd

    All the objections, without exception, as to why a sixteen should not have the vote can equally be applied to those over sixteen.

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      The prospect of you being able to vote certainly terrifies me.

  • Austin Barry

    “Does this mean that people who have never worked a day in their lives shouldn’t vote?”

    Yes.

    • David Lindsay

      Rules out the present Cabinet, then.

      • Noa

        And the shadow Cabinet too.

        And by the way, Fraser, let us have more posts from Carola, who displays a maturity beyond her scarcity of years-and some of her peers.

        • Nicholas chuzzlewit

          Hear, hear!!

          • Kennybhoy

            Thirded!

        • Nicholas chuzzlewit

          And a great deal less of the dreadful ‘Red’ Isabel Hardman.

  • Dan Grover

    The youngest demographic is that one which is the least likely to vote. Like giving votes to prisoners, it might be of academic interest but I think the practical repercussions of giving votes to 16 year olds would be very small indeed.

  • rtj1211

    The answer is very clear, young lady: an oily, slippery politician can see some advantage for himself in letting you vote.

    Whether his judgement is right or not, your generation will know better than me.

    But he’s not suggesting it for his love of you, its for his love of what he thinks you can do for him.

    • David Lindsay

      It wouldn’t apply until the General Election of 2020. (Well, unless Cameron tried to steal a march by announcing it next week.) People who will be 16 then are only nine now.

  • David Lindsay

    If anyone does this, then it’ll be Cameron. Announced next week in his speech, along with an energy price fix starting now? Labour would have to vote with him against his party for the second. But the first would be the House of Lords all over again.

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      Why would he do anything so insane as trying to fix energy prices?

      • David Lindsay

        Because the public love it, and because Labour would have to vote for it against any rebellion on his own side, thereby already implementing what was to have been the flagship Labour policy in 2015.

        If its that insane, then why are several energy companies already doing it? Meaning that they all will, because that is how the work. And all because of a speech by the Leader of the Opposition.

        • Nicholas chuzzlewit

          Yes funnily enough telling a public that is largely and profoundly economically illiterate that they can have something for free or cheaper is very popular. Making it possible with no ill effect for them is a far more difficult trick. This speech from the Leader of the Opposition will more likely persuade Energy Companies not to make further investments in much needed generative capacity because they cannot count on receiving a positive return on their investment. Additionally, freezing prices invariably creates a shortage because when providers who have paid £x per unit in the global market for their gas are only allowed to sell it for £x-1, then surprise, surprise they buy much less gas and sell much less gas. Persistently, selling goods or services at a loss inevitably leads to demise just ask the people who used to work in the coal, shipping, printing industries etc if you are struggling with the concepts of investment. Finally, if the same Leader of the Opposition had been a bit more circumspect instead of once again playing to the crowd, he might not have saddled consumers with all those expensive and unnecessary ‘Green’ taxes which are a major component of high energy bills in the first place.

          • David Lindsay

            You need recharging.

            • Nicholas chuzzlewit

              It would be too much to expect a rational response to these points as you only deal in assertions you sad,deluded, insignificant little pleb.

        • R2-D2

          The energy companies are doing it because they have always been doing it. Fixed price contracts have been available for years. The energy companies are just using the publicity they’ve got as a result of Miliband’s speech as a marketing trick.

          • Nicholas chuzzlewit

            Don’t expect a rational response he only deals in dogmatic assertions.

  • DH

    You can join the army when you are 16. Would it not be sensible to allow young men and women who are expected to fight to defend our country to be allowed to vote for the people that may ultimately send them to their deaths? The same people who claim 16 year olds are not responsible enough to vote are the exact same people who nod approvingly at the idea of bringing back national service for the “lazy” youth of today. Dont let them vote, they simply aren’t responsible enough. But by all means give them expert training in how to operate lethal weaponry.

    • Ron Todd

      Better to raise the age at which people can join the army.

      • DH

        Quite possibly but that isnt the debate here is it?

        • Ron Todd

          You raised the issue.

    • marksl

      Boys who join a junior soldier unit are trained but cannot go on active service in which they may be called on to fire weapons until they are 18. This was a rule that was initiated during the Northern Ireland Troubles – no one could serve in Northern Ireland until they were 18 – and has since applied more generally.

  • Denis_Cooper

    “… the rising school leaving age will soon make it virtually impossible to be under 18 and a taxpayer … ”

    No it won’t, there are babies who are paying tax on savings account interest, unless the parents thought to register it for gross interest, and there are older children who pay VAT on some of the things they buy with their pocket money, and it is still legal for children to do some paid work from 13, or younger if they have a licence for work in TV and so on.

    And if you start to relate the right to vote to taxes paid then quite reasonably some people will start to demand multiple votes in respect of the higher taxes they pay.

  • Bonkim

    immature and easily led at 16 – whilst there are no absolute age for informed decision, 18 seems a sensible age for being classed as an adult and part of wider human society as an individual and independent member..

  • Gregor Manby

    Just as there are plenty of 16 year olds who arent ready to vote, there’s also a large number who are perfectly ready, and a large number of over-18’s who arent. You cant pick and choose who the vote is given to, that’s not democracy.

    • Ron Todd

      Yes you can. Would you give the vote to a five year old, or a mental patient or a prisoner, or an illegal immigrant just of the back of a lorry.

      • Veritas

        But we do give the vote immediately to every Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi who gains permission to live here. Without them ever becoming Britis citizens,

    • Keith D

      There should at least be an IQ requirement and an oath of loyalty to the country.

    • Colonel Mustard

      I would. I would make voting subject to an IQ criteria. Stick that in your equality pipe and smoke it in a very public place.

      • Airey Belvoir

        That should be an I.Q criterion, Colonel. How is yours?

  • Someone

    I must say I’m torn by the idea. I remember being extremely frustrated as a 16 and 17 year old being taxed when I had a part time job and paying in to a system I had no way of shaping.

    That being said, I also hate to think about the potential for abuse – particularly if postal voting remains in place. Without wishing to be unduly negative, it seems as though the Left (and note the SNP and Lab are the only two parties thus far making the case) are determined to increase the possibility of voter fraud at every turn. Presumably this fits their dogmatic view that the individual should be subservient to the needs of the many.

    • Kennybhoy

      Someone wrote:
      “I remember being extremely frustrated as a 16 and 17 year old…”

      Me too. But it wasn’t about being taxed. :-)

  • Shannon

    Democracy, rights and political engagement are taught as part of statutory Citizenship lessons at secondary schools. Not PSHEE. This means that many 16 year olds are more politically informed than many people older than them.

    • Colonel Mustard

      I’ve seen some of the teaching material. Hardly neutral. They are being taught Thatcher was the great Satan and other socialist tripe. Some of the stuff my grandchildren spout which they have learned in school is shockingly pro-Labour. It should be a criminal offence for a teacher to be a member of a political party or a political activist. Those found disseminating partisan political material to their pupils should get a mandatory 5 year sentence. It is simply child abuse.

      • rubyduck

        Seconded.

        I gather from my grandson that Thatcher had people starving in the street in the miners strike.

        In fairness, I’m not sure the teacher was old enough to rememer much about it.

      • Simplem+ths

        moron. That is all.

  • Roy

    Correct. Sixteen year olds are not near knowledgeable or proficient enough for the responsibility of voting for the next leadership of their nation. Having said this, I am sure there are sixteen year olds who could make a better job of running the country than the present incumbents. Even at twenty one I have the most serious misgivings of this age group to know what they are doing. The younger generation all told, have it far too easy. There should be a set number of years that young people have to earn their ability to be recognised as adults, able to earn adult rates of pay, and generally pay back much of what they owe to society they have been lucky enough to find themselves a part of.

    • DH

      “Sixteen year olds are not near knowledgeable or proficient enough for the responsibility of voting for the next leadership of their nation”
      But 16 year olds can join the army, train to defend our country and potentially be sent to die by a government you believe they are too irresponsible to elect.
      Judging by your comment that young people have it too easy I would guess that you would also no approvingly when someone pipes up with the idea of bringing back national service or agree with the sentiment that more young lads should join the army for a bit of discipline?

      • Thor fenris

        16-18 year olds cannot be ‘sent to die’in the Army. You must be 18+ t be sent to a combat area.

      • Roy

        Young men are trained for the army, and as mentioned are eligible after the age of 18. This still does not equip them with the know-how or have the experience of time necessary for the tick at the ballot box. It’s numbers that are required for service life, major decisions are made by wiser (usually) and more elderly souls.

    • al

      I’m 20 years old.
      In the eyes of the government I’m an adult.
      I’m therefore just as affected by the decisions of my government as anyone older than me.
      If you want to exclude me from voting, I’d like all my child benefits back so that the big bad adult world can’t screw me over by making decisions (for which I am allowed no input) that directly affect my income.

      • Roy

        You are allowed input when you are wise enough to be taken notice of. When you have earned the capacity to be a responsible member of society. You already have thoughts of making demands of society with a mere mention of the younger power age.

        • al

          Define wise, explain how it can be measured objectively and then we’ll talk.

          • Roy

            Take a dictionary, any dictionary, and have a peek. Anyway your filibustering and really know you’re mistaken, and are too fond of your grandchildren to admit it.

            • al

  • Abhay

    16 year olds should not vote. Otherwise politics will get further infantilised. And I can think of a number of criteria that should be considered before extending voting rights.

    -An IQ threshold perhaps?
    -Is the person of working age, not disabled, and has been on welfare for more than 2 years?
    -Are you in prison? No vote for you
    -Traitor? No vote for you.

    Those 4 are good ones to begin with. Let the election reform start.

    • David Lindsay

      You can’t vote in prison, anyway. We have been through this on another thread.

      • Abhay

        No harm in reinforcing the good values!

        • David Lindsay

          Reinforcing them how? This is already the law.

          • Nicholas chuzzlewit

            This is a very old country with some statutory and common laws whose origins reach back to antiquity. Reminding people of their existence and significance occasionally is surely no bad thing in a democracy.

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        As you never tire of telling us.

    • TheOtherTurnipTaliban

      Disallowing traitors to vote would rule out all sorts of people in our political and journalistic classes, as well as many people in the lab and con parties.

      • Abhay

        That would be a good thing.

  • Keith D

    I’m amazed to recollect what I was like at 16.And my 3 kids.Angst filled teenagers studying for exams,rebelling against my parents and in thrall to my peers.
    Some of whom didn’t bother with school as they were too busy getting “full of it”.

    No thanks,although in saying that,if the country votes Labour,we’d be as well letting 5 year olds have the vote.

  • Richard Calhoun

    Forget Charles Moore, give 16 year olds the vote, its a great introduction to adulthood, making them feel an accountability and part of the decision making process.
    What’s not to like?
    p.s. I am neither a lefty or a teenager but a free market advocate and a 70 yr old

    • Abhay

      You may be 70 years old biologically but you are displaying the mental / cognitive abilities of a 7 year old.

      • Richard Calhoun

        Compliments keep coming, I can’t keep up!!
        But maybe you should get into the real World, a 16 year old today is far more politically aware and mature than they were 50 years ago.
        Old enough to get married and all that, then old enough to vote, give them the responsibility and they will respond.
        p.s. Unless of course your frit they won’t vote they way they should?!

        • Abhay

          The problem is, Richard, to explain the folly of your over-optimistic world-view I will have to type a lot. That is quite fatiguing a pursuit and I am not inclined so right now.

          All-round juvenilia and infantilisation of culture, politics and academia is steadily on – all in the name of progressive egalitarianism. Granting voting rights to 16 year olds will be another such folly.

          • Richard Calhoun

            Amazed at your views, in the last 60 years the political elites of all parties & the chattering classes have trashed our economy & destroyed our values.for their own ends.
            You may want this to continue but for me I think we need many changes

            • Abhay

              You obviously did not understand what I wrote. Again:

              16 year olds should not vote. Otherwise politics will get further infantilised. I can think of a number of criteria that should be considered before extending voting rights.
              -An IQ threshold perhaps?
              -Is the person of working age, not disabled, and has been on welfare for more than 2 years? No voting rights.
              -Are you in prison? No vote for you
              -Traitor? No vote for you.

              Those 4 are good ones to begin with. Let the election reform start.

              • Richard Calhoun

                3 bad ones! the only valid one is those serving a prison sentence
                p.s. I fully understood what you wrote

            • Keith D

              Our political elites have done exactly as you say.But 16 year olds are influenced by MC/PC NUT lefties who describe this great MC/Socialist utopia that all of us pay for.It will only make things worse.

        • Ron Todd

          50 year ago they were likely to be working and at least semi independent. They would have had a interest in how the economy was run. Now they are compulsory still at school getting indoctrinated by left wing teachers.

          • Richard Calhoun

            Well I always thought education helped, better than being stuck in some mind numbing job at 14 or 15?

            • rubyduck

              A mind-numbing job is a job. Something pretty hard to find these days.

              • Richard Calhoun

                Indeed, that’s why its better to have education to 16 not 14 or 15 & follow on to learn a trade or other skills

Close
Can't find your Web ID? Click here