IN THE RUN up to the General Election, Labour have called for a lowering of the voting age from 18 to 16. One of Labour’s key manifesto pledges will give
approximately 1.5million more young people the vote, should Labour be elected. In Wales Labour say that 75,000 16- 17 year olds are currently ‘being denied’ the chance to have their say, and that changing that would be an early priority for a Labour government. Shadow Welsh Secretary, Owen Smith, said of the policy: “There is a real appetite amongst young people to play an active part in our politics. In the first week of this campaign, I visited every seat in Wales and was bowled over by the sheer number of young people that have been motivated to stand up and make a diff erence in this election.
“If the Tories had supported Labour’s calls to lower the voting age, then parties across the UK would have sat up and taken notice of younger voters as in many key seats the number of 16 and 17 year exceeds the sitting MP’s majority. “A Labour government would give those 1.5m people across the UK a voice. We would allow them to make the choice for themselves.” Plaid Cymru AM, Simon Thomas, supported the idea, but also promised that Plaid would go further, saying: “Plaid Cymru want to go further than many other parties we want to give young people aged 16 and 17 the right to vote, and we want to introduce the Single Transferable Vote system to make votes fairer. “Plaid Cymru was advocating votes at 16 when both Labour’s Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were Prime Ministers.
It’s likely that Labour’s broken promises not to introduce tuition fees or top-up fees were amongst the reasons as to why the former Labour government didn’t lower the voting age when it had a 13 year opportunity to do so. “Plaid Cymru would love to see a greater level of political engagement amongst young voters as they are the future of our nation.” Off ering broad support to the idea was Conservative MP, Simon Hart, though he also stated he believed other factors were also important for political engagement, saying: “I have no issue with lowering the voting age, but Labour are mistaken if they think that is the only thing that puts younger people off politics. Too often we hear people say that voting ‘doesn’t make any diff erence’ and that we are ‘all as bad as each other’.
The task that faces all Parties is not to use this issue as some way of scoring cheap points because that is the problem, not the solution. We will win respect and support not through gimmickry, but through sensible policies that actively encourage younger voters to take part. Creating 2 million new apprenticeships since 2010, to add to the 2 million new jobs is just a start.” The British Electorate has been able to vote at the age of 18 since 1969, prior to that it was 21. Women have had the vote since 1918, but they had to be 30 or over; in 1928 that was changed to the same as the voting age for men, 21.