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3 Nov, 2017 15:17

Give 16-year-olds the vote? Teen angst & hormones fly online as parliament debates reform

Give 16-year-olds the vote? Teen angst & hormones fly online as parliament debates reform

True to form, teenagers are falling out on social media. No, not about whether Justin Bieber is ‘woke’ or the merits of the iPhone X – it’s actually something far more serious: voting rights. And emotional MPs aren’t much better.

The online furore was sparked by Parliament debating a motion on Friday about whether or not the voting age should be lowered to 16. The raucous debate has sparked the trend “#VotesAt16” on Twitter.

As the hashtag trended, teenagers from across the political spectrum exchanged barbs, with those against the motion suggesting that their peers are too “clueless” to vote. Meanwhile, supporters of the bill are more sympathetic, calling such a reform a “great day for our democracy.”

As teens locked horns online, MPs had their own heated exchanges – on Twitter and in the Commons chamber. Labour MP Ruth George tweeted to accuse Tory MPs of “behaving like children” in their attempt to stop the bill. “Teenagers know better and deserve the vote,” she said.

She was supported by colleague Marsha de Cordova, MP for Battersea, who labeled Tory MPs “disgraceful” for “filibustering to deny young people across the country” the right to vote.

The private members’ bill, introduced by Labour MP Jim McMahon, has the official support of his party and the backing of the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and the Scottish National Party (SNP). Despite cross-party support the bill has little chance of becoming law as the governing Tories do not back the idea.

Asked about the issue earlier this year, Theresa May pooh-poohed the proposal. “We expect people to continue in education or training until the age of 18, and I think that is the right point for the voting age.”

The Conservatives have historically been more popular with older voters. In the June general election, the Tories beat Labour in every age category above the 40-49 bracket, according to YouGov polling data.

That being the demographic case, many on the government benches have accused Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour of cynically backing the motion, hoping that if passed it would lead to more votes for the party.  In June, Labour attained 66 percent of the vote among 18-19 year olds and 62 percent of support from the 20-24 bracket, according YouGov.

Proposals to lower the voting age have been gaining momentum across Britain in recent years. In 2015, 16 and 17 year olds were granted the vote for local and Scottish elections, while the Welsh government is currently consulting on similar changes.

Following the Brexit referendum there were growing calls to lower the age of voting, as critics pointed out that the decision to leave the EU would impact young people (overwhelmingly pro-EU) far more than older citizens (predominantly pro-Brexit).