Oxford Mail:

Gregory Holyoke, a pupil at Cherwell School

Giving people the vote at 16 could be a chance to solve our nation’s democratic crisis.

In the corridors and common room of the Cherwell School, where I’m a student, debate is rife: admittedly this is often about things that really aren’t worth repeating.

However, in among the meaningless babble good political debate shines through, with well thought-out arguments on both sides, and this is a similar picture for other schools across the country.

These discussions could be about A-Levels or university, Syria or inequality, and I would argue these are of equal maturity to that of an 18-year-old or an 80-year-old, and more importantly they are about issues that affect us.

Yet unlike an 18 or 80-year-old we have hardly any control over these important questions – we don’t have the vote.

Combined with this, we are all facing a political crisis in Britain, one that comes down to people not caring about politics any more.

For example, at the 2015 general election less that half of 18 to 24-year-olds went out to vote – lower than any other age group.

People are feeling out of touch. Giving 16 and 17-year-olds the chance to vote would show us that parliament is dedicated to representing and listening to us all.

During the Scottish referendum, where 16 and 17-year-olds were given the vote, turnout was over 70 per cent.

This is far higher than the average turnout in a general election for any age group, and many of these new voters were far more pragmatic in their decision than their parents or grandparents. Perhaps this is because they realised that the outcome of the vote would affect their lives just as much as anyone else.

The principle is the same for others across the country. Controversial issues like education and tax affect our futures at least as much as anyone older. You can start paying tax from 16 and would be either going to work or university by the end of a five-year parliament.

Also, all evidence shows that the younger you start voting the more likely you are to continue to throughout your life.

This policy has worked well in Norway and could be a huge step forward here in making our democracy more democratic.


Oxford Mail:

Roger Cox, Conservative councillor, Vale of White Horse District Council

I remember when the age of maturing used to be 21: that was when you could vote, get married and all sorts of things.

Then it was lowered to 18 and that has always seemed reasonable.

Are 16 and 17-year-olds really rounded enough to take a political view? Most people at that age have only been in school or other education, they generally haven’t been out into the world and generally haven’t been in a job so long.

I know that we are so much better informed these days by TV and internet – I’m better informed by BBC Parliament myself – and I would concede that young people are as level-headed now as they have ever been. They are considered and responsible, and even if they choose to use their vote as a protest, I don’t see that as a reason for stopping it.

However, I do not feel that most people of that age would be mature enough in terms of having experienced worldly trials and tribulations first-hand to be able to make the necessary judgement: a valued judgement of all the various issues.

The trouble is that everyone matures at different rates: some people will be incredibly mature at that age, others will not.

The level that the bar is set at the moment gives people the extra time to come to terms with all the issues.

That’s not saying they shouldn’t be involved in politics: I’m all for giving people a course in school about finances so they are better equipped when they come out of school.

I’ve just written an article for my parish newsletter explaining the difference between different councils because nobody knows the difference between what the parish, district and county do.

Maybe if 16-year-olds could demonstrate that they have passed their GCSE in social and community responsibility that would work.

Another point to make is that people of this age have not been in the work place to pay their taxes: why should they be able to vote if they haven’t paid their taxes and National Insurance contributions?

Finally, even if we did give 16-year-olds the vote – how many would actually use that right?

We have adults in our society who don’t vote because they’re not interested. Would 16 and 17-year-olds be able to vote independently and who would just follow mum and dad?