The left-wing Labour Party has vowed to lower the voting age to 16 years old in a blueprint for the party’s next general election manifesto.
In a move being described as a craven attempt to “rig the electorate”, the Labour Party’s National Policy Forum’s final report released late last week states: “Labour will introduce votes for 16- and 17-year-olds, in line with Scotland and Wales, so that young people feel empowered and can fully engage in our democratic processes.
“Those who contribute to our society should have a say in how it is governed.”
According to calculations from The Times of London, the move would add around 1.5 million people under the age of 18 to the voter rolls, marking the largest expansion of the electorate since the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 by the Labour government of Harold Wilson in 1969.
Given the tendency of younger people to back left-wing parties, the move would likely disproportionately help Labour. According to a YouGov survey, the party currently holds a 43 per cent advantage over Conservatives among voters between the ages of 18 and 24, compared to the 21 per cent lead it holds among all voters.
Criticising the proposal, Conservative Party chairman Greg Hands told the Daily Mail: “This is nothing but a desperate attempt to rig the electorate.
“Everyone knows adulthood starts at 18 – that’s when you can get married, start drinking, and smoke. Labour only want to lower the voting age for their own political advantage.”
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Even some members of the Labour Party have come out against the idea, with MP Graham Stringer saying: “We have to draw the line somewhere on the voting age, and I simply believe most youngsters at 16 are not mature enough to exercise that right.”
“I’m afraid that were the Labour leader to put this forward, it would smack of party political self-interest on the basis that young people are more likely to vote Labour or Liberal Democrat than Conservative.”
Former UKIP leader Henry Bolton described the plan to lower the age of voting as “utter madness”, saying: “Most 16-year-olds haven’t a clue about politics, taxation, legislation, government policies, or their implications and don’t work. Sunak doesn’t deserve to win, but on this idea alone, Labour has to be kept from office.”
A Labour spokesman defended the idea, saying: “At the age of 16, many young people are paying taxes, working, and engaging in all parts of society — it is right that they get a say in who governs them.”
The Labour Party has, however, apparently backtracked on the notion of allowing EU citizens to vote in British elections, despite leader Sir Keir Starmer previously describing the plan to give millions of European nationals the right to vote as “common sense”. Unlike the plan to give 16-year-olds the franchise, the proposal to extend it to EU citizens was not included in their manifesto blueprint.