Sunday 27 April 2014

Votes At 16 Is A Preposterous Idea, by Teddy Corbett

Only those with a childish political outlook could champion votes for children. Here are just a few of the many reasons 'Votes at 16' is a preposterous idea that must be dropped by Labour immediately.

It is policy from thin air. 

There has been absolutely no build up nor public debate about this issue whatsoever. In short, it has been plucked from nowhere.

Whilst such a startling feat is to be applauded amongst children's magic entertainers, it is less endearing coming from would be political leaders. 

It is simply not an opinion even remotely widely held nor on the democratically selected agenda of most bodies representing meaningfully large scale numbers of people. There is patently no will for it.

Notably, the generally very well-received conference speech by Ed Miliband that included a flaky call for 'Votes at 16' did not exactly bring the house down.

Whereas many other policy intentions were warmly and rightly applauded, on this bemusing idea of votes for children, most people looked palpably perplexed as if to say, "Er, hang about a minute mate. What on earth are you talking about? Where did that come from?"

A proper Labour Government is grassroots Government by the people for the people, not a top-down imposition of cranky inventions nobody asked for nor requires.

The same point extended then, of those few who have welcomed the idea or have previously articulated (and I use the term generously) such thoughts, we see the same predictably minute liberal media class of Toynbee et al, who speak for nobody but themselves and come up with such brainwaves at tipsy dinner parties in Islington. Probably while the same 16-year-olds they wish to 'enfranchise' are out urinating on the bonnet of their overpriced cars. Well, I know I would have been.

Oh, I forget to mention, the Liberal Democrats have always endorsed such a move. I think we can safely leave that as a comment in of itself.

The fact is that the way to remove much of the rightful disillusionment of our young is not to thrust ballot papers there way, but rather improve education, job, housing and wage opportunities.

We must create a better, secure and more connected society so when they are old enough to vote they have strong decisive politicians to chose from who will represent their interests, not embarrassingly ignore them and then chuck them a voting slip and pat them on the head.

Inviting adolescents to endorse figures who show nothing but disdain for their future is frankly kicking them while they are down.

The concrete bread and butter issues, the politics of belonging and relationships and the ongoing cost of living crisis of our day need to be the focus of an incoming Labour Government, not trying to mask voter apathy by patronisingly increasing the potential electorate.

This is transparent tripe.

We need to engage with genuine disaffection by creating a bolder political vision that deals with the root causes of an alienated public, not pointlessly hurl out bad policy ideas in this shallow fashion.

Individual responsibility and societal solidarity will not be fostered by such wet liberal proposals.

One of the main arguments that is keenly circulated around is the supposedly indisputable all-powerful notion that just because 16-year-olds can legally have sexual intercourse, drive a car, get married with parental consent and join the military, that therefore they should have a greater say in the democratic process of the country at large.

Little is ever mentioned of that fact that just because something is legal or one can do something that one should, or that it is advisable by older and wiser members of said society.

If this pathetic 'argument' is genuinely the case put forward, then its opposite trajectory is equally if not more valid, that is, the age of consent and so forth should be raised in line with the voting age to 18.

Using other age defined legalities to bolster ones weak case for lowering the voting age is misleading at best.

All this spurious nonsense about everything being 'open' and 'accessible' to our young would then surely have to be (il)logically extended to suggesting that we put 16-year-olds on juries and all manner of other roles reserved for adults.

How about adult jails and sentences while we are at it? Seriously? Where do you draw the line and where is your sense of balance?

That 16-year-olds' brains are biologically underdeveloped is seldom brought up by the chattering 'radicals' who advocate all this.

Taking into account pubescents' lack of cultural capital, intellectual worldliness and work experience, is never the bother of all the LSD guzzling hippies who want them to have the vote. I wonder why?

To change the voting age would make it infinitely easier for parties to avoid giving a powerful and cogent vision for the country, something that they already evade as much as possible.

The leadership of our parties would instead predictably try even harder, and succeed even more, to manipulate the impressionable youth into cheap slogans and empty imagined wish-list policies the kind of which we have seen in Scotland.

It is no surprise Alex Salmond was such a strong advocate and initiator in lowering the referendum's voting age. He foolishly believes that by waving a few Saltires around that the teenage voters will be putty in his hands.

Let us hope he is wrong, but let us also learn from his shady example the mildly sinister nature of this kind of tactic.

False claims of 'widening the franchise' to make the electorate more 'proportional' are never the 'progressive' ticket they are billed as, but rather disguise a cynical and insulting view of young people that we should reject.

Our young are certainly not too thick to engage or be interested in politics.

Many of them in fact exceed our expectations and know even more than us. However, we are talking about making broad policy decisions and in general. Due to lack of life sophistication, a sensible age line must be drawn.

To change our current common sense and balanced approach would be potentially disastrous.

It is true that some bright and active 16-year-olds have apparently been calling for this change in the law. I applaud them for their political engagement and fiery will for change, but frankly, so what?

So much modern liberal politicking rests on the flawed notion that just because a small group wants something and kicks and screams hard enough, that they must instantly be awarded it by an all-powerful state otherwise 'discrimination,' (a word which is now only ever used in a negative light) and 'anti-equality' 'fascism' is at work.

The current conception of 'rights' now covers just about any conjured up notion one cares to name, and once it is named it must be extended to all otherwise one is accused of being a Nazi.

I actually happen to think it a good thing we discriminate from time to time, and between those who are legally as well as culturally and socially defined as children rather than adults, I see no problem with not bending over to yield to some of their impulsive and juvenile whims.

Where were you politically as a teen?

Most were thankfully not too bothered but rather having normal fun at house parties and playing sports for their school.

I was, unfortunately, one of those other types of losers, sat in a mate's shed with two others drinking Special Brew and bemoaning Anthony Blair's corruption of the Labour Party while listening to Motown records, (no, I can't remember why either).

Yes, at 16 I was a rather absurd anarchist who thought beardy bores such as Bakunin held all the answers. I believed myself to be very well-informed (aw, bless), and while it is true I was in a minority who were politically active and interested at my age, are we seriously now going to say the views of those who are not even legally allowed to leave full time education, let alone accrue much real knowledge of life are equal to say that of an experienced nurse, a middle aged teacher or a well-travelled librarian?

How about a political refugee who has fled persecution to settle here, an immigrant doctor or the local trade unionist postman or firefighter?

It is time to, as the Americans (and many of our 16-year-olds here) would say, get real, dude. This is lazy laughable liberalism that has no place in a serious Labour movement. Only those with a childish political outlook could champion votes for children.

In the words of the great Fat Mike of Nofx: "There's no point for democracy when ignorance is celebrated ... Majority rule, don't work in mental institutions. Sometimes the smallest softest voice carries the grand biggest solutions..."

I am not calling our kids mad. But it is a harsh, yet nonetheless an accurate, observation merely to point out that many people at sixteen haven't the faintest clue what they are banging on about. I was one of them. And so were you.

Let's all grow up about this and stop even entertaining such gimmicks for policies that would not even make a difference to the outcome of elections. How many of the 16-year-olds would even bother to vote, and for whom?

It is irrelevant either way, such a small portion of society spread out would not carry weight.

In any case why give something to somebody who is not yet old enough to comprehend it, let alone fully value it's worth? We are belittling the importance of the vote by throwing it into the play pen.

Think of the children. Won't somebody think of the children?

What teenager wants his annoying folks trying to manipulate what he or she does with their hypothetical vote? Most would abhor their parents and teachers pestering them to go to the polling station. For God's sake Mum! They are not your slaves!

This phoney policy would alienate 16-year-olds, and make them loathe and avoid politics even more than many of them already do. Let's just scrap it now.

Just like the extremely old in society, the exceedingly young are also a vulnerable group.

Neither are to be patronised or sidelined of course, but just watch for the party political vultures whose eyes light up at the chance to gerrymander such demographics.

Let's not give these creeps more of a chance to engineer false votes, eh?

I speak as someone who has worked in hospitals and nursing homes for years, and who has seen the perfectly reasonable aiding of the infirm but mentally coherent to fill out forms to get their voice heard, but also the occasional crossing of the line so to speak.

One shudders to think of the local PPCs turning up for School Assembly to get their claws in. What a way to put our youth off politics for life, rather than to inspire them.

It plainly reeks, just as that cringey letter one receives on one's eighteenth birthday leaves a slightly sour taste. The latter is unpalatable but understandable, the former would be dangerously abysmal in effect.

Is it not the most bizarre state of affairs whereby liberal Governments, (of modern Conservative, Coalition and New 'Labour' varieties) have for decades now been all too happy to wither away at important adult authority whether parental or teacher based, and yet now political authority it is suggested, is to be bestowed upon the most immature members of society?

In one instance, sober adults, particularly male role models, are for practical purposes infantilised and denied. In the next, thousands of children are to be transferred an equal say at General Elections that in part are deciding our fate.

This ludicrous hypocrisy undermines all of us and our age defined roles in society, creating an ever more incoherent and fragmented culture.

We are not being fair on 16-year-olds by even indulging in the prospect of this puerile postulation.

It is time to get serious about the political change we need to see in this country and not demean both adults and children by holding out political candy to babies. 

The phrase being bandied around Ed Miliband's office currently is not 'Go Young ,Go Daft,' but 'Go Big or Go Home.'

Onwards, and indeed upwards.

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