As many of you may have seen, on Friday The Independent and The i newspapers published an article titled “Stop pandering to young people”. In the article the journalist Mary Dejevsky uses the negative publicity around Paris Brown, the recently resigned Kent Youth Police Crime Commissioner, to attack the campaign to lower the voting age.
In response to this a letter was drafted outlining where the coalition felt the article was flawed in its arguments. Members of the Coalition then demonstrated their support for the letter by signing it. A copy was sent to the Independent. This letter, which can be read below, continues to draw support from our members.
Dear Ms. Dejevsky,
We are writing to you on behalf of the Votes at 16 Coalition and in response to the comments made in the recent article; “Stop pandering to young people”.
We read with some dismay the reactionary and somewhat patronising views, apparently gleaned from the reported mistakes of one young person. A young person, it should be noted, that was appointed by adults and not voted for by her peers. Paris Brown is held up as a “one-woman reason” why the voting age should not be lowered to 16 but no individual should be used as a representative sample of the some 1.5 million 16 and 17 year olds across the UK.
The article argues that since reducing the voting age from 21 to 18 there has only been muted support for further reduction or support only from self interested parties. We would like to draw your attention to the very public support now demonstrated by all Political Houses across the UK. On the 4th July 2012 the Welsh Assembly voted in favour of lowering the Voting age to 16 by 43 votes to 8. On the 7th November 2012 the Northern Ireland Assembly agreed by 51 votes to 29. Most recently the House of Commons added their support when they debated the back bench motion on the 24th January 2013, followed by yet another successful vote which passed by 119 votes to 46. It should also be noted that all major parties were represented amongst the ‘for votes’. This is not to mention that the Crown Dependencies of Guernsey (2008), Jersey (2007) and The Isle of Man (2006) who have already lowered their voting age to 16.
Alongside this, and as is indeed acknowledged, Scotland has also shown its support by lowering the voting age for the upcoming independence referendum. The article claims that it would be flattery to assume this is because “they (younger voters), more than anyone else, would be living in an independent Scotland”. In fact, this is absolutely right. As Nicola Sturgeon argued, “No-one has a bigger stake in the future of our country than today’s young people”. In an age of sweeping cuts that have devastated large swathes of youth services it might be more accurate to argue that lowering the voting age will simply give young people a chance to redress an imbalance that has often seen them overlooked or directly targeted by cuts they have no say in.
Towards the end of your article the author writes, with some certainty, that “16 year olds are not adults”. It seems strange that when citing the various stages at which young people take on new responsibilities you feel that adulthood has such a distinct start date. It would, perhaps, be more accurate to see the transition into adulthood as an ongoing process, a process that could be enhanced by the chance to become politically engaged earlier. Even in the proposed changes to the current varying ages you still feel that you would keep the age of sexual consent, and therefore the legally condoned age of parenthood, at 16. On that logic, we believe it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to argue that parenthood should be considered as at least as big a responsibility as voting.
We would like to thank you for your time, and your interest in the Votes at 16 campaign, but would urge you to consider the arguments a little more deeply before making such public and reactionary comments.
The Votes at 16 Coalition
Rosina St. James, British Youth Council
Electoral Reform Society
Global Youth Justice
National Childrens Bureau
National Council for Voluntary Youth Services
The National Youth Agency
Newport Youth Council
Dannie Grufferty, NUS Vice President Society and Citizenship
Plaid Cymru Ifanc/ Party of Wales Youth
Paul Smyth, Chief Executive Public Achievement Northern Ireland
Scottish National Party Youth
Grant Costello MSYP, Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament
A National Voice