For too long the young people of this country have been denied a voice and a right to take decisions over their future. Has the moment finally come for them to be included?
Back in May, one thing was on everyone’s mind when they went to the polls. UKIP wanted out, Labour, the SNP and Greens wanted in, Conservatives wanted … well, you decide really, but the party’s in a divide over the issue.
But the Conservatives won, so now, we get that promised referendum, by the end of 2017, and ever since they were elected into government the Conservatives have been pushing a Bill through to give the public what they wanted, or what the Conservatives wanted at least (again, just 36 per cent of the national vote, Cameron!). It would allow the government to run a nationwide referendum asking one simple question, this question most likely being: ‘Should the UK remain part of the EU?’
The Bill arguably isn’t the worst thing going through Parliament right now, but there is one little section that young people like me aren’t too happy about: 16- and 17-year-olds aren’t going to get a say in it.
But, as it was decided on Wednesday, it seems like there might still be hope for 16- and 17-year-olds in the UK.
The House Of Lords has voted to amend the Bill to extend the right to vote in the referendum to my age group, with a majority of 293 Lords voting for the amendment.
The old arguments that young people just aren’t interested in politics are quite simply no longer valid anymore.
When the Scottish Parliament was given control over how the Scottish Independence Referendum was managed, they gave 16- and 17-year-olds the vote, and when they did, there was an 80 per cent voter registration among them and a 75 per cent turnout too. It’s clear that the reason some young people aren’t that interested in politics is because of a lack of knowledge concerning the system and how it works; a clear lack of political education.
And whilst Commons still has to approve the amendment, the British Youth Council is clearly pleased.
Ife Grillo is the Vice Chair of Communications and Campaigns at the BYC, and on the news he said:
‘Young people have been knocking on the door of democracy for decades and Scottish 16- and 17-year-olds have already proven that we’re ready during the referendum last year. That’s proof enough that young people are more than capable of taking part in this historical vote!
‘We at the British Youth Council have consistently called for 16- and 17-year-olds to be included in the EU Referendum and it’s great to know that common sense has finally prevailed! Earlier this year MPs decided to deny them the vote, and it’s great to see the House of Lords battling them on their poor judgement!’
Ife isn’t the only one who thinks like this.
Megan Dunn is President of the National Union Of Students, and the BYC spoke to her too. Upon hearing the news she said:
‘Young people will bear the consequences of the EU Referendum vote so it is only right that they should be able to have their say—so it’s very positive that peers have agreed with this common-sense case. The pressure is now on MPs to also recognise the right for young people to have their voice heard. Students across the country will be calling on their MPs to make sure they vote the right way when the bill returns to the House of Commons’.
As Megan says, this referendum could be a game changer. The consequences of the vote will be felt for generations to come, especially if we choose to leave. It’s therefore even more important that young people like me are given the control they need over their own future in their own country and not denied a voice in this landmark referendum.
It might not be happening yet, and the Commons are yet to decide. But for now, we’re back on track for Votes at 16 in the EU Referendum, and I for one couldn’t be happier.