Faced with a fall in enthusiasm for politics among adults, the Power Inquiry – most of whose members were young in the 1970s – reports today that the voting age should be lowered to 16. There is something a little embarrassing about the sight of politicians chasing the teen market, but there is no reason to think 16-year-olds would vote with any less seriousness than their parents, even if they do lack a full understanding of the realities of adult life.
The real problem with this proposal is that it betrays a dangerous misunderstanding of the problem that parliamentary democracy faces.
It ain’t just a problem with parliamentary democracies.
Parliament exists to supervise the machinery of national government on our behalf. The problem is that this machinery has extended itself deep into the minutiae of daily life – regulating almost every local and communal institution in the land – without a corresponding increase in the power of voters to hold it to account.
The result is a sad decline in political engagement, for people correctly perceive that their votes will have only the most marginal influence on the decisions that affect their lives.
It is difficult to see how extending the franchise into the fifth form would reverse the trend that the Power Inquiry was established to address, namely voters’ disgust with politicians. For, as the inquiry found, there is no deficit of political interest and activism: it is the lack of support for parties at the ballot box that threatens to undermine the credibility of the system.
Thank you Mr Telegraph writer!
The localisation of democracy would do much to correct this trend, and restore some justice and common sense to the political process by empowering those with a real stake in its outcomes.
Bringing politics to the people, by devolving power to levels at which voters could have a degree of control, would be far more likely to get the voting numbers back up. The revival of Parliament depends, most immediately, on a restoration of the power of local government.
Politicians should remember that the decline of pop music arose from disillusionment with stars who were no longer writing songs people wanted to hear. The teenybopper phenomenon provided only a temporary reprieve.
Ultimately, pop mutated into punk, the plague-on-all-houses genre exemplified by the nihilism of the Sex Pistols. Do we really want anarchy in the UK?
Weird. The Sex Pistols of politics.