Labour 'prepared to lower the voting age to 16'

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The Independent Online

Labour is preparing to include a commitment to lowering the voting age to 16 in its next general election manifesto to encourage teenagers to become more engaged in politics, one of Ed Miliband's key allies indicated last night.

Michael Dugher, a party vice-chairman, disclosed that Labour was "actively considering" the move after last month's announcement that 16- and 17-year-olds will be allowed to take part in the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence.

The issue has been added to the agenda of Labour's policy review which will pave the way for its next manifesto. Mr Dugher argued that the need for action to re-engage the public of all ages in the electoral system had been dramatically underlined by the 15 per cent turnout in the contests for Police and Crime Commissioners.

Although opinion on lowering the age is divided within Labour ranks, Mr Miliband, above, has previously stated his personal backing for the move, which is also supported by the Liberal Democrats. It is opposed by the Tories who say the current franchise age of 18 is in line with most Western democracies.

Mr Dugher said lowering the age would be a move towards ensuring all sections of society had a stake in the country. "Many young people are the ones bearing the brunt of the harsh economic climate. Extending the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds would give them a tangible way of expressing their views," he wrote in an article in today's Yorkshire Post.

"Young people need a say as their future is synonymous with the future of the country as a whole."

Mr Dugher, a shadow minister without portfolio, said: "Labour is determined to open up politics and that is why we plan to seriously look at the possibility of votes at 16 in our policy review, which will inform Labour's election manifesto in 2015."

Lord Adonis, a policy adviser to Mr Miliband, is even floating the idea of setting up polling stations in secondary schools on general election days.

In a new book, the former cabinet minister says: "At the age of 16 they should be treated as citizens – young and maturing citizens – and be given the vote, with a polling station in every secondary school on election day."

The issue of votes for 16-year-olds has not been discussed at Westminster since a Private Member's Bill in support of the move was narrowly defeated by MPs seven years ago.