The Labour Party has announced today that if elected at the next general election, it will lower the legal age someone can buy alcohol and tobacco to 16 years. The age for getting a tattoo, using a sunbed, and driving a car will also be lowered. The Labour Party also proposes giving 16 year-olds the right to marry without parental consent (bringing the rest of the UK in line with Scotland), the right to die on a battlefield for Queen and country, buy fireworks, knives, and allowing them to take out personal loans and apply for a credit card.
How does that sound to you? Do you think they will be vote winners? Of course, the Labour Party didn't announce that today, but all of the above are things that you can't do until you are 18 years-old - apart from driving a car, which currently stands at 17.
With the Prime Minister currently in China, at today's Prime Minister's Questions, David Liddington deputised for Theresa May, and Emily Thornberry deputised for Jeremy Corbyn. The topic she chose was votes at 16, and more specifically, how many more years do we have to wait until the vote is extended to everyone over 16? Liddington opposes lower the voting age, but that didn't stop Thornberry from using every other question available to her to make her case.
"At 16, we are free from parental control, we can leave home, we can start a family, we can get married, we can start work, we can pay taxes and we can join the forces, so can he give us a logical explanation of why a 16-year-old should not have the right to vote?", she asked. The fact that (apart from Scotland) you can't get married without parental consent, and that although you can join the armed forces, but can't fight, doesn't fit her narrative, so she decided to let it go.
Liddington replied by saying that "it was the last Labour Government who raised the legal age for buying cigarettes to 18, raised the age for selling knives to 18, raised the age for buying fireworks to 18 and raised the age for using a sunbed to 18. If she wants a lesson in inconsistency, she might like to examine the mirror."
Thornberry then replied with the most inconsistent argument she had at her disposal. She said that those restrictions "are for the most part to do with public health, public safety and the prevention of crime." In other words, we can't trust anyone under the age of 18 to buy a knife, fireworks, or use a sunbed. If that is true, how can they be trusted to exercise a right to vote?
During her final question, Thornberry, clearly getting very desperate, decided to go for a low blow. Commenting that in the House of Commons, the only parties opposed to votes at 16 are the Conservative Party and the DUP, she said, "They are not the coalition of chaos; they are the coalition of cavemen."
Here is David Liddington's reply in full:
"My advice to the right hon. Lady is to wean herself off the habit of watching old versions of “The Flintstones” on the relevant cartoon channel.
"We ought to salute the fact that not just the Youth Parliament but many schools and other youth organisations throughout the country are working hard to get young people used to the idea that, as they grow up, they should take an interest in current affairs and then, when they reach the relevant age, exercise the full rights and responsibilities of an adult by participating in elections and political campaigning, The situation here, with the national voting age at 18, is one that is followed by 26 out of the 27 other members of the EU and by the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Unless she is going to denounce all of those countries as somehow inadequate by her own particular standards, she ought to grow up and treat this subject with greater seriousness."
I couldn't have put it better myself. The only reason the Labour Party has jumped on the votes at 16 bandwagon is because Labour thinks it will benefit at the ballot box. Whatever your views are on the subject (you may have already guessed that I am opposed), no-one, in all seriousness, can say someone can be trusted to vote at 16, but not be trusted to buy a kitchen knife or use a sunbed. No-one is seriously going to advocate allowing 16 years old to die on a battlefield. Nor do I think Emily Thornberry and her colleagues are going to propose a change in the law that will allow 16 year-olds to marry without parental consent, or change the law to allow 16 year-olds the right to take out a personal loan.
Unless she is willing to change all of the above, Emily Thornberry is a hypocrite. Adults have the right to vote. By lowering the voting age to 16, you are saying that a 16 year-old is an adult. Adults do not have age restrictions placed upon them. Or am I being a caveman for saying that?
There has to be an arbitrary starting point when it comes to the voting age. The vast majority of countries across the world have settled on 18, and it’s for a very good reason. It’s when a child becomes an adult, and only adults should be allowed to vote.