Jayne Dawson: Let’s keep the vote for sensible people

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It’s not a fashionable topic.

It’s not up there with the big stuff – what are Rylan’s X Factor chances, what really happened in that toilet between Cheryl and the attendant all those years ago – stuff like that?

But, in and amongst, in one of those strange quirks that happens now and then, the word (whisper it) “voting” has been mentioned.

Yes! That thing people don’t do in great number at election times has made news – sort of.

Here’s the back story. Scotland is about to have a referendum on whether to go its own way, which sounds a lot like a cue for a Fleetwood Mac song, if you ask me.

Anyway, on Monday Prime Minister David Cameron agreed to the vote, and to 16 and 17-year-olds taking part in that vote, while simultaneously declaring his intention to travel northwards as a voice of reason, pleading with all those wee Scots people to stay joined-on.

“Good luck with that, Dave,” is my only response to that. A person of my close aquaintance tried electioneering in Scotland once and all that happened there was he got egged Scottish style – an egg not thrown at him but smashed into the side of his face with such force there was blood, and fists, and a court case, which ended with the egg thug getting off, er, scot-free.

Back to the main point. Allowing what I call “mere children” to vote in Scotland would lead inevitably to the need to give 16 and 17-year-olds the same voting rights in England, goes the argument.

Some people think this would be a sensible move, others don’t. I am with the don’t. Really, just don’t.

Where to start? Okay, let’s leave aside for now the fact that most 16-year-olds would, in any case, prefer to reserve their voting rights for boy bands on Saturday night television, and attempt to talk sensibly.

Here’s what I think should happen: the very opposite. Instead of lowering the voting age, it should actually be RAISED so that no-one under the age of 30 gets to vote in anything – except matters pertaining to Saturday night television, obviously – because this would be practice, of a kind.

I’m basing my argument on this business of extended youth – and also on my desire for everyone to experience how women used to feel up until 84 years ago.

It’s incredible, isn’t it? Until 1928 only women over the age of 30 and with property could vote. All the rest, well their opinions didn’t count.

Remember that, all you women, when you’re thinking that “they’re all the same,” and that you can’t be bothered to sort out the kids and make yourself presentable enough to leave the house and get to the polling station. Until 84 years ago, unless you passed the criteria, you wouldn’t have been allowed to.

So there is all that but, more than that, there is the business of not growing up.

I suppose it makes sense in a way. If you are going to have to work until you are aged at least 77, as is the prediction for children today, then there really is little point in rushing down the road to adulthood. You are, after all, going to be a long time grown up – especially as we continue stubbornly to live longer and longer.

Might as well take your time reaching emotional maturity – and they do, oh, they so do.

Remember when dramas used to be made about thirty-somethings because they were at that pressured, interesting phase of life, struggling to get ahead at work, to raise kids, to move house, to pay the mortgage, to make a life? Not now they’re not.

Now, thirty-somethings are likely to be living in a rented house since no one can get a mortgage anymore, not bothering too much about a career, and still enjoying going out with their mates. Living, in many ways, like their teenage selves.

And finally, never underestimate the lure of the forbidden. If everyone was barred from voting until they were aged 30 and approaching modern adulthood, who knows what might happen? Enthusiasm might even overtake the usual political apathy, it might be more like the old days.

When I was at school, I knew who the Tories were, I knew where they lived – which was in the semi-detached houses, usually.

We weren’t quite in the William Hague mould – storming the Tory party conference aged 16 – but we definitely knew which side of the political divide we were on.

It could be like that again. Twenty-somethings might start to feel excluded, they might start campaigns to win back the vote, it might get as far as the European Court of Human Rights. Pop stars and celebrities might join the groundswell of outraged opinion. There might – heaven forbid – be a resurgence of interest, and a new respect for our precious right to vote. You never know, I could be right. Fancy a referendum on it?


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