That’s what the majority of the House of Commons would say to me; that because I am not yet 18, this once in a generation vote will have no impact on my life and I can’t have a valid opinion about it. I disagree, strongly.
Votes for 16 year olds has gained more momentum in recent years, which is great. The vote was even given to those aged between 16 – 18 in the 2014 Scottish referendum yet, a young person who was allowed to vote back then could be too young to vote in the upcoming EU referendum, even though they are now older . As though their ability to make a decision has been eradicated since September 2014 only to return on their 18th birthday. It all seems a bit strange.
Votes for 16 year olds hasn’t always been something I strongly campaigned for and, even as I write this, I feel I can wait until I am 18 to vote in a general election as they happen every 5 years. The EU referendum however, is different: it has been labelled a once in a generation vote, so the decision made on the 23rd of June will probably outlive most of us. And I will miss out on it because of 300 or so days. It’s frustrating.
I feel it is obvious that the outcome of the vote will possibly change every aspect of my future life, things such as studying at university, to getting my first ‘proper job’ and buying my first house, things that I still have to come. These are also things which, a middle aged woman in Leeds has more control over than I do, even though she has ‘been there and done that’. Why does she have more of a say in my life than I do? It’s frustrating.
With that said Jane (lets call her that) aged 40 has about 41 years of her life left, according to UK life expectancy. I have 65. That’s a whopping 24 more years that I have to live with Jane’s decision than Jane does. Even if it’s morbid, it’s frustrating.
The argument that 16 year olds are not as informed about politics or aren’t mature enough to vote is often raised in response to our calls for the vote. ( In fact it was once raised by an MP to whom we posed the question ‘Why don’t you want 16 year olds to vote?’. I must admit it was rather amusing watching him attempt to explain himself, in front of 40 16 year old politics students.) I cannot see how 16 year olds can be judged mature enough to join the army at 16 yet not mature enough to put a cross in a box. In fact a good percentage of young people seem more mature than most MPs in the Commons, but the ridiculous, counter productive, playground behavior which occurs in the Commons is another post all together. The idea that young people are less informed about politics is also rubbish (in the words of Boris). When young people are possibly the most connected in the country using the internet, it is hard not to pick up what is going on in politics, and generally in the news. And even if we are ill informed, are we more ill informed than Jane? Is Jane monitored to ensure she is knowledgeable enough to vote? a vote affecting my future? It’s frustrating.
This all probably comes a bit late, the referendum date is set and the commons already voted 303 to 253 to not give me a voice. But I hope with this short post I have conveyed the frustrations of being a student of politics, who keeps up to date with current affairs and has an opinion on a subject which will literally change his life, yet is not able to vote on it. It’s really really really frustrating.
To give 16 and 17 year olds a voice, sign the petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/119706