Peter Kyle MP: Why I believe in votes at 16
Last week I introduced my bill to lower the voting age to 16 into the House of Commons.
I think our politics and society is missing out on the wisdom and insight of young people and we need to act. Each generation has to reassess its democracy to see if it’s as inclusive as possible and not excluding people needlessly.
I strongly believe that a young person educated to GCSE level has all of the knowledge and critical thinking needed to decide on the character of a candidate and to understand the policies they are standing on.
And there’s a big problem in the UK right now, which is the fact that 16-year-olds can vote in Scotland, in Wales and in the Channel Islands, but not in England or Northern Ireland.
England has become a democratic laggard. Voting in the UK has become a postcode lottery for 16 and 17-year-olds.
It’s true that there are lots of arguments about this issue that need to be tested, and many were done so during Friday’s debate, which you can watch here.
What I’ve found, though, is that many of those arguments why 16-year-olds can’t vote could also be applied to other age groups too. I’m also troubled by the arguments which link voting with public health. Sixteen-year-olds can’t buy tobacco products, but should that really mean they can’t vote too? After all, I want smoking banned altogether at some point – does that mean we have to ban voting too if you believe there is a link between the two?
I got the chance to debate my Bill on Friday, and lots of brilliant Labour colleagues made sure they were there to support it. I’ve been working really hard to build a consensus in the Commons, and lots of Tories have also decided to support my Bill which is really exciting. My speech was followed by Scottish Tory MP Luke Graham who made a brilliant speech that bravely supported my Bill.
This is a big step in the right direction. Number 10 was forced to issue a comment last week denying it was giving way on Votes at 16, and MPs from all parties are gaining confidence. I know that this will happen, it is inevitable, and the sooner the better, so that young people can have a bigger say in the big decisions being made now that will impact them more than anyone.
Peter Kyle is the Labour MP for Hove.