Votes at 16: A Call for Consistency

I’m not an expert on child development. I don’t know whether 17 is the right age at which we should let people get a driving license, or whether this should be changed to 16 or 18. Similarly, I don’t have a strongly informed opinion on other similar issues, such as the fact that:

  • 18 is the age you can buy a pint of beer in a pub
  • 18 is the age you can use a sunbed
  • 18 is the age in which you’re allowed to watch the film ‘Alien’
  • 17 is the age at which you can be interviewed by the police without an adult present
  • 18 is the age at which you can buy fireworks
  • 18 is the age at which you can place a bet in a betting shop
  • 18 is the age at which you can buy tobacco
  • 18 is the age at which you can open your own bank account.
  • 18 is the age at which you no longer have to be in some form of education or training.
  • 18 is the age at which you can fight for your country (you can join the army earlier, with parental consent, but not be deployed until 18)

Similarly, I’m not an expert on whether you should continue to need your parents’ consent to leave home or get married up until the age of 18. I’d note that the general trend seems to be to make most of these ages older (for example, the age limits on tobacco, education and sunbeds were all increased within the last 15 years).

What I do know though, is that voting to decide who governs our country is an act of greater importance and greater responsibility than any of the things in the list above. It is inconceivable to me to say that someone who can’t be trusted to watch an 18 film, to buy a pint or to have their own bank account should be trusted to vote. The argument that they should is simply to undervalue the franchise, which has been won at such cost over past centuries

If someone wants to come forward and argue, with evidence, that the limit for all of these things is too high and that we should lower them all to 16, I’m prepared to give them a fair hearing. I might actually agree. But as long as people are pushing votes at 16 in isolation, whilst treating 16 year olds as irresponsible in many other less weighty matters, I will treat it as what it is: a blatant piece of gerrymandering.