Currently, over 1.5 million people are unable to vote in UK elections. Sure, they can register to vote, but they can’t actually vote. Who are these people? That’s not the question. The question is “How old are these people?” and the answer is “16 and 17”. That’s a wordy and convoluted way of telling you something you obviously already knew – an old bloggers’ trick to bump word-count. Anyway…
These people can’t vote and many of them really, really want to. More than ever before, young people are becoming engaged in politics. While out canvassing for the Labour Party during election week I met so many enthusiastic, knowledgeable, intelligent people who were just the kind of people you’d want helping to decide our future as a country. I asked so many people on polling day “So, been to vote?” only to get the reply “Oh, I can’t yet.” And this makes me sad.
During the Scottish Independence Referendum 16- and 17-year olds were given a voice and they used it in their thousands! This is now what people want as standard in all UK votes. Whether it’s in the forthcoming EU referendum or future general elections, shouldn’t everyone who is able to register to vote be allowed to use it? As Frankie Boyle has pointed out, this is just one of many bizarre examples of age-based hypocrisy! You can pay taxes at 16 but are not allowed a say in how those taxes are spent. You can join the army at 16 but have to be 18 to buy Call Of Duty. It’s odd.
That’s not to say that every 16- and 17-year old is clued-up and switched-on, politically. I know some right idiots of this age who would love the vote, if only because they can then give theirs to UKIP “for a laugh”, or vote for Boris Johnson because “remember when he got stuck on that zip-wire? What a ledge!” Nope, not everyone is as emotionally competent as the amazing teens I met a few weeks back.
I think, if we introduce voting for 16- and 17-year olds, we should also introduce a kind of Dickhead Test to weed out those likely to abuse the voice they get. In fact, forget everything I’ve said about young voters; introduce a Dickhead Test anyway, right now. Clearly, as evidenced by growing support for UKIP and our fucking majority Conservative government, over-18s can’t be trusted either! I spoke to a woman recently who, when asked who she voted for, said “Well, the Prime Minister’s party! Obviously?” I asked, why ‘obviously’? and she replied “Well, because he’d the Prime Minister, so you have to vote for him, don’t you?” She then went on to explain that, since the age of 25, she’s voted for whoever the Prime Minister is, because she thought that’s what you did.
I’ve used this little line a lot since May 8th – “We Are Idiots, All” – and it’s true. Sure, there are pockets of nice people, clever people, decent people; but over all I think this country is racist, gullible and spoon-fed. Like those under-18s I met, there are pockets of decent, intelligent, progressive people out there but their voices are being drowned out by the frightened, xenophobic yelps of Sun readers and Radio 5 phone-in bores. It’s these scared masses who helped usher in the House of Fools we have now. A Dickhead Test may have saved us from this Godawful Fate.
But that’s not Democratic! Weeding out the idiots based on a progressive reading of what makes a fair and decent society is entirely undemocratic! Democracy is everything! It’s the cornerstone of our… well, our Democracy! Democracy! Democracy! The government want to make it illegal to strike unless they get 40% support for it! The government got in with a share of less than that. That’s our Democracy. The difference between a Tory majority and a Tory minority is said to have been as little as 950 votes over a handful of seats. That’s our Democracy.
So come on kids, join in our Democracy! Oh, no. Don’t vote! Use your voice! No, it isn’t the same thing. Speak out on the streets, unite, organise, march and shout, wave banners, sing songs, show your displeasure, oppose this cruel rule! And yes, you should have the vote, as long as you use it wisely. I think, before long, you’ll be ready for that. Shame is, this government – voted in, as usual, by pensioners and peers – aren’t likely to let you have it. Why on earth would they?