Theresa May says the right to vote is not necessary to participate in politics

The Prime Minister refused to allow younger people to vote

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Monday 15 May 2017 12:27 BST
Theresa May, the Prime Minister
Theresa May, the Prime Minister (Getty)

Theresa May has ruled out lowering the voting age to 16, arguing that being able to participate in elections is not necessary to become “engaged” in politics.

The Prime Minister said she hoped young people would be “enthused” by her at the general election but suggested that under 18s should instead participate in mock elections to a powerless “Youth Parliament”.

Asked about lowering the voting age to 16, Ms May told the BBC’s Westminster Hour programme: “The implication from your question is that the only way to get engaged in politics is by casting a vote.

“Obviously there is an engagement and an activity there which is very much about people giving their view and I am very clear in this election that every single vote counts.

“But people can get engaged in politics in a whole variety of ways and I would encourage young people to do so.

“I think it is important young people watch politics, pay attention to politics, get to think about their own views and where possible start to get involved.

“There are lots of ways, youth parliaments, but also we see young people becoming councillors.”

Asked about why she would not give young people the right to vote, she said: “This is one of those questions where you have to draw a line, you have to pick a point at which you think it is right for the voting age to be.

“I continue to think it is right for it to be 18. Of course we now expect young people more to stay in education or training up to the age of 18 and I think that is an appropriate point at which we allow people to have a vote in parliamentary elections."

The Conservatives poll badly with young people, trailing far behind Labour, and granting younger people the right to vote would likely put them at a political disadvantage.

Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP, and the Greens all support reducing the voting age to 16. A leaked copy of Labour’s manifesto argued 16 year olds “deserve a vote” because at that age “you are eligible to pay tax, get married or even join the army”.

16 and 17 year olds were allowed to vote in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum following an intervention by the SNP-led Scottish Government.

David Cameron refused to extend the franchise during the European Union referendum, however.

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