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Too young to tan, too young to vote.


THE CAMPAIGN TO GET the voting age lowered to 16 is one of the left’s current political fashions and a useful way both to market themselves as modern and caring while badging opponents as youth-hating old fuddy-duddies. They seem to have had some success in persuading young people to vote for Labour in the recent election, despite the fact that there is no dinosaur older than Corbyn on the political scene or anyone whose policies are more paleollithic and discredited. But that’s a result of the ignorance of youth, as we shall see.

The private member’s bill debated recently in the House of Commons to lower the voting age failed to pass because of lack of time but there’s no doubt its proponents will be back again at some stage. In Scotland the voting age was lowered to 16 for local and (so-called) Scottish Government elections back in 2015. In Wales there is a similar movement to do the same.

It’s no coincidence that it is the parties of the left — Labour, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Greens and the Lib Dems — that favour the move. You can bet that if they didn’t expect it to work in their favour they wouldn’t be so keen. They also seem to ignore the fact that it could work against them.

It was a Labour government that compelled young people to stay in education till they are 18, and to be in training or employment if they left school before then. That hardly demonstrates a trust in the abilities of young people to run their own lives.

As with most issues that raise what is laughably called “debate”, this has brought out the usual cliches; that you can join the army, get a job, pay tax and so on. And that giving 16 and 17 year-olds the vote will engender an interest in politics, which can only be good for our democracy. Well, you can join the army, but won’t be deployed to the front-line until you are 18; you can get married, but only with the permission of your parents; and, of course, you cannot buy alcohol, etc. Yet it was a Labour government that compelled young people to stay in education till they are 18, and to be in training or employment if they left school before then. That hardly demonstrates a trust in the abilities of young people to run their own lives.

The other thing you cannot do under the age of 18 is use a sunbed, such is the sensitivity of your body and the immaturity the powers-that-be assumed on your part. So if Labour had their way you would be able to vote but not get a tan in a salon.

The arguments against lowering the age are as well-rehearsed as those arguing for it, but have more weight (personally, I would like to see the age raised back to 21, as a way of coping with the increased infantilising of society). At 16 or 17 you have no personal experience of the world, no means of judging the complexity of life and the mendacity of politicians, particularly those who promise you everything. Neither do you have enough knowledge about the world, because the chances are you have had little time to do any reading and thinking. In this regard you are hampered by the fact that the education system these days is geared to making sure you receive little in the way of knowledge and that what you do learn is skewed to the liberal-left viewpoint.

That is why Labour can seriously tout nationalisation of major industries as a viable policy — because their youth base has no experience of nationalised industries and how the thick-fingered hand of the state stifles everything .

Those promoting the campaign know this. They know well enough that the school system is overwhelmingly staffed by teachers of a leftist persuasion (the unions more obviously so). They know that the university system is the same, and most of the media and entertainments industry likewise. Social media giants like Google and Facebook become more blatantly leftist and authoritarian as each week goes by.

Campaigners hope they can count of the ignorance of young people combined with the passion of their natural idealism and goodwill. At 16 you have little real understanding of the malevolence that lies in the heart of some individuals or the creeds they promote. At the same time you have inside you a vast reservoir of shapeless emotion, especially rage and resentment, some of which may spring from personal history but much of which has no identifiable origin, but all of which can touched and activated and shaped towards a political end by the cynical and unscrupulous. Hence you can get thoroughly emotional about “issues” such as poverty and deprivation or inequality, even when you have no experience of them or an understanding of how they are being packaged. Difficult problems are presented to you with easy answers and trite slogans. Your susceptibility and ignorance expose you to manipulation. And if the pressure of your peers and the environment around is so great, it is difficult to resist.

The power of this ignorant emotionality, combined with the great energy of youth, is attractive to the left. It’s a resource they cannot refrain from trying to exploit. It’s dishonest and dishonourable. Far from showing respect for young people it does the opposite: it reveals a disgraceful contempt for them.

suxcoverCurrente Calamo columnist, poet, writer and lecturer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire . From 2005–2008 he was the Royal Literary Fund fellow at the University of Lincoln where he now teaches English Literature and Creative Writing. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent collection is Spyglass Over The Lagoon. A selection of his Fortnightly Currente Calamo columns, Sucks To Your Revolution: Annoying The Politically Correct (US), is available as a Kindle ebook.

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