Having the ability to vote for a political party is never as simple as it may seem. It is representative of a societal acceptance, a power, a voice. Throughout history, the fight for suffrage has spanned multiple cultures across the world. Whether it’s the 15th Amendment granting the vote to former slaves in the USA or the 1918 Representation of the People Act which gave women the vote, the mandate is an imperative requirement to have efficient democracy. Nonetheless, why are 16-year-olds (of which I am one) yet to be given the chance to express their views?


As a nation, it seems increasingly likely that sixteens will be given the vote. Labour (all wings of the party), the SNP and Liberal Democrats have all embraced the cause. In Scotland, they already have the vote! Sole resistance comes from the wings of the Conservative Party. However this is a reversal of past history.

In the early twentieth century, Labour and Liberal parties resisted votes for women as they feared it would benefit the Tories. And this was true up until the 1980s. The reasons for this varied between women seeing themselves as consumers, which the Tories legislated to protect and assist to a greater extent than other parties, or women on average being more religious.

Sixteen-year-olds given the right to vote would shift politics. It is likely that younger voters, who are more ideological, would support greater public spending. They would push for greater spending on education rather than the NHS, and would worry more about tuition fees than immigration. Sixteen-year-olds however, are also all dependants and, usually, don’t pay tax themselves. This has led many to assume that if they were enfranchised, higher taxes would be the natural result. This may not be true though. If a large fiscal deficit is created in order to fund schemes now, it is the 16-year-olds who will have to pick up the bill in the future. Long-term solutions will have to be reached in order to appease the part of society which still have all their taxes ahead of them. Crucially though, if political education was provided with the vote, which it would have to be, many would naturally realise their true political calling.

Of course, if 16s were given the vote now, they would overwhelmingly vote for Corbyn. This is not because they are inherently left-wing. This is because the Tories have positioned themselves as the party of the old, Brexit and austerity. Yet, social surveys have shown that many 16-year-olds favour rugged individualism — ‘Freedom is the right to die in the gutter’. Young people’s attitude to government is vaguely sceptical. It is increasingly difficult for them to trust the aged patricians and therefore small-state is favoured. These are all traditional Conservative tenets.

Therefore, I would argue that the Conservative Party could easily gain the support of the newly enfranchised 16- year-olds. In 1867, Disraeli steered through a series of reforms to expand the electorate which the party feared would prevent the Tories from ever becoming the government again. But in 1874, the Conservatives won their first majority for decades. The reason for this is that the party shifted. However, Disraelian, one-nation conservatism is paternalistic and believes in a ‘duty of care’. Now another shift is needed. A shift which will fundamentally change the Conservatives. Tuition fees is a key battleground and the Tories’ minimal reaction to this divisive issue is losing them masses of votes. Meanwhile, the NHS is slowly sinking due to an aged population. The resources of this country need to be allocated in such a way where all parts of society are given attention — the young and the old. Currently, this is not happening. Corbynism is idealistic, optimistic and utopian, while lacking the sober pragmatism of the Conservatives.

If the Tories want to survive as a party, they need to win back the young. If the Tories go into the next election being the only party opposed to votes at 16 it is unlikely they will succeed.