Lowering the voting age

THIS week a self appointed group called the Power Commission inquiry boldly announced ‘the current way of doing politics is killing politics’.

We know that engagement by young people in politics is lower now than ever before, with a record low voting turnout in both the 2001 and 2005 general elections.

The Power Commission recommends, amongst other things, lowering the voting age to 16.

I agree with Gordon Brown when he recently said that whether or not the voting age is lowered there should be better civic education, perhaps through citizenship lessons as part of the national curriculum.

But politicians need to be realistic and not treat votes at 16 as a cure for disillusionment with politics.

When I have spoken to 6th Form students in Cardiff many of them have been very political, especially about issues like the Make Poverty History campaign, but haven’t necessarily supported lowering the voting age.

It is by showing that democracy can make a difference to real issues such as world poverty that young people will engage with politics.

What’s needed is the inspiration of political action for the good, not the desperation of thinking that lowering the voting age will solve everything.

I have no objection in principle to the voting age being lowered.

In fact there are a number of solid arguments in favour of it.

But I’m yet to be convinced that there is a huge demand to be given the vote by 16 year olds themselves.

I can’t help but think of the mass marches and protests of people like the Chartists and the Suffragettes, demanding universal suffrage.

I’ll support the cause when 50,000 young 16 year olds march on Parliament demanding the vote.