• EDDC to call for national debate on votes at 16

    6th December 2012 | News | Claire
  • My motion, which was submitted for debate at last night’s full council meeting, called on the government to lower the voting age to 16, on the basis that 16 year olds are already treated as adults in many ways, including being able to ride a motorbike, get married and get a full-time job.

    With an amendment to direct the motion at the Local Government Association (LGA) instead of the government, councillors voted unanimously in favour of supporting the motion, despite some expressing misgivings…..

    After my speech (below) to propose the motion, the motion’s seconder, Martin Gammell (Libdem) made his own case why the voting age should be lowered.  He said he had changed his mind over the issue after previously being sceptical.  He said:  “Actually all I was interested in at that age, was girls!”

    Cllr Gammell pointed out that across the country the police commissioner elections had only managed to achieve a 10 per cent turn out.  He said:  “We need all the talent, enthusiasm and commitment we can get.”

    But Alan Dent (Con) of Budleigh Salterton, said: “I am appalled at this self-seeking notice of motion, which is making cheap political points.”

    He went on to add that it had been produced just so that I could make an entry on my blog about it and he “urged the proponents” to focus on more important matters, such as flood prevention, coastal erosion, rather than “sniping from the sidelines.”

    Given, that my motion had not included any sniping from the sidelines, nor had mine or Martin Gammell’s speech, I was rather non-plussed at how Cllr Dent had come to this conclusion.

    Roger Giles called across the chamber:  “Happy Christmas Alan!”

    Cllr Bloxham (Con) spoke.  He said he didn’t like the way my motion was put and claimed it wouldn’t work.  He said it would be better directed at the Local Government Association, asking them to start a ‘national debate’ on the subject.

    He added that EDDC does terrific work with young people and some young people had visited the Knowle recently. 

    Some people are not interested in politics and cannot be bothered, but you could say the same about some adults, added Cllr Bloxham.

    Tony Howard (Con) supported “the eloquent words of Ray Bloxham” and wanted EDDC to “seek advice” from the Local Government Association (LGA) – a somewhat watered down version of what Cllr Bloxham had proposed.

    Cllr Roger Giles (Ind) pointed out that we shouldn’t be seeking the advice of the LGA – we should be giving a steer to them – asking them to look into giving 16 year olds the vote.

    Cllr Mike Allen (Con) supported the motion and so did young people’s champion, Christine Drew who told the meeting that whenever she asked groups of school students whether they would vote at 16, they nearly always said yes.

    Cllr Stuart Hughes (Con) said he supported votes at 16, adding that this was what Screaming Lord Sutch had proposed as a policy for the Monster Raving Loony Party.

    Cllr Christine Drew (Con), young people’s champion, confirmed that whenever she had asked groups of school students whether they would vote at 16 they almost always said they would.

    EDDC leader, Cllr Paul Diviani, said: “I was a bit ambivalent before the debate – but I think we have got to the right place.”

    The motion with Cllr Bloxham’s amendment was backed unanimously (including by Cllr Alan Dent).

    My speech is below:…………………………………..

    On 22 October attended a political speed dating event at King’s School, with EDDC councillors Roger Giles, Martin Gammell, Pauline Stott, Andrew Moulding, Christine Drew and David Cox.

    Excellent event organised by EDDC’s member services dept and about 200 students took part in two separate sessions.

    Both groups of students were mature and clearly cared very much about their community.

    The top questions were:

    – what did I think of Cranbrook?
    – what could I about facilities for young people in Ottery?
    – mainly would I support votes for 16 year olds?

    From what I have read and heard, the main arguments against allowing 16 and 17 year olds the vote, are rather patronising.  “They are not mature enough,” OR “They wouldn’t vote anyway.”

    The view seems to be that because not ALL 16 and 17 years would vote, we should deny the ones who do want to get involved in the democratic process and help select their elected representatives.

    I have spent a lot of time with students at King’s and I can tell you that they are DEAD keen to get involved in community activities, influence issues and represent their peers by going along to Ottery St Mary Town Council meetings.

    The arguments students, even as young as 12 use, to back up their position, are mature, intelligent and thoughtful.

    What is the point of teaching Citizenship and getting young people really interested in politics and local government issues, only to make them wait for two years, to actually be able to visit a polling station.

    I would argue that far MORE youngsters, not less, are likely to vote by lowering the age to 16.

    Society gives mixed messages by expecting you to be an adult at 16 in many ways.  You can get married, ride a motorbike, get a full-time job and pay tax.  When all these things are permissible in law, how can it be logical or fair to deny 16 and 17 year olds the most basic of democratic rights.

    To read my account of the political speed dating event in October at The King’s School click here – http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/campaigns_could_spring_from_political_speed-dating_event/