Friday, 3 November 2017

We don't want votes for children

I am often asked if there are any people in politics or journalism I respect. I often appear to be a complete asshole when my reply is "no". Our politics is awful and increasingly our media is a self-referential, thoughtless circle jerk. And of our media class there can be few more useless than Brussels correspondents.

Yet, of late, I have increasingly found (to my surprise) that Nick Gutteridge of the Daily Express is the best of the bunch. Admittedly that is not saying very much but credit where credit is due.

As much as Gutteridge is on side with the EEA/Efta thing, he is also a thinker. His daily Twitter contributions are useful in ways the Telegraph's are not. But today, he has succinctly dismantled the debate on votes for sixteen year-olds:
OK, this is off piste for a Brussels hack but I see #VotesAt16 has come up again. As ever, nobody has really thought this through. Our society is designed so you become an adult at 18. This isn’t just a symbolic moment - adulthood comes with tangible rights and responsibilities.

The most precious in both those categories is voting. And voting must only be open to those who have assumed their full responsibilities to society. You cannot simply allow a group of people who have fewer responsibilities than everyone else to assume the same key right as the rest of society.

We all know the rights 16-year-olds don’t have - they can’t buy alcohol or fags or drive a car because they’re not adults yet. But what about the responsibilities they don’t have to fulfil? Let’s have a look at some of those and decide if we’d want 16-year-olds doing them.

Firstly, jury service. I’ve been a court reporter - the stuff juries have to hear and see is horrific. Do you want a kid doing that? Secondly, military service. God forbid a war starts tomorrow and conscription is required, do you want 16-year-olds going off to fight?

Criminal responsibility. Those under 18 are considered minors in the eyes of the law. Do you want 16-year-olds in adult prisons will full grown men? Workers’ rights. Employers have extra responsibilities towards 16-year-olds. Do you want them exposed to danger/exploitation?

These are just a few of the many responsibilities that people currently assume when they are 18, which 16-year-olds do not have to fulfil. Of course, you could argue pensioners no longer have to fulfil these responsibilities either. But they’ve already done so for 50 years.

So if you want to debate #VotesAt16 that’s fine, but you have to do it in conjunction with a discussion about the age at which people become adults. Personally, I think we all live and work long enough and we don’t need to be assuming that kind of responsibility even earlier than we do already.
Apart from praising the correct use of apostrophes, there is nothing more to add. Nice one, Nick. We don't want votes for children. It is bad enough that we elect them.

No comments:

Post a Comment