The subject will be debated in the Commons on Friday—and I will make the case for changeby Caroline Lucas / November 1, 2017 / Leave a comment
It is easy to look back on the last two years in politics and feel a sense of despair. A divisive EU referendum followed by a bitter general election, and now the ongoing chaos surrounding the government as it attempts to manage the Brexit process.
In the midst of these most trying times there are reasons to find hope, too. Not least the rise in young people’s interest in politics. June’s general election saw us turn a corner after two decades of disproportionately low turnout among young voters. 64 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds headed to the polls to have their say in Britain’s future. It was the highest youth turnout in 25 years.
This was an election which the Conservatives attempted to frame entirely around the EU referendum and there is a subtle irony in the fact that June’s vote mobilised a swathe of voters whose voices were lost as the results of the EU referendum trickled in and the reality of Brexit broke.
A staggering 75 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds who voted last year chose “Remain,” overridden by the older generations who voted “Leave”—including 61 per cent of 65+ year-olds. 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds never had the chance to make their voices heard, after my amendment to give them the vote in the referendum was rejected by parliament. This despite the fact they will be the ones to carry the potentially dire consequences.
I have little doubt it was the stark Brexit reality, and the sense of intergenerational injustice, which drove some young people to polling stations during the snap general election. Young people’s passion for politics has been re-lit, and I believe that now is the time to extend the franchise and give them more of a say. On Friday, a Private Members Bill by Jim McMahon to reduce the voting age to 16 will be debated in the House of Commons—following hard on the heels of a widely supported Early Day Motion I tabled on the subject earlier this year. I’ll be in the chamber lending the support from my own party.