i Editor's Letter: It's just plain common sense


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The Independent Online


What a hornet's nest I stirred yesterday with my views on whether 16-year-olds should have the vote or not. Regular readers will know I constantly defend teenagers in this slot, and as such, completely reject the kneejerk dismissal of the idea by so many of our older readers. There are indeed many adults for whom the vote is a dangerous weapon wielded too thoughtlessly. Many, for instance, voted for Boris or Blair purely because they "liked" them. And, yesterday, while I read responses from people who said they were disappointed in me for "a narrow view of youth", I listened to a 20-year-old (voter?) on the radio who still lived at home (and didn't pay bills) arguing that gas price rises were a good thing because it might "encourage us to use less energy". Sigh!

Adult failings notwithstanding, I still believe most 16-year-olds are not able to vote on the issues. How could they be? How many of them need worry about household or even personal finances? How many have suffered serious illness or injury, or care for a child or an elderly person? How many commute to work, or have dealt with the repercussions of crime? Who among them knows the provider's fear of losing your job, or the terrifying reality of it actually happening – not to mention the stigma attached to claiming benefits?

Which of them can know the anxiety of finding the right school for your children, or deciding whether to go private? I could go on. It's not prejudice against the young; it's not animus; it's just plain common sense.

And with that, I am off for a week of Caliban and quadratic equations, leaving you in the safe hands of Victoria and Rhodri.