When we look back on our teenage years, many of us do so with a mixture of misty-eyed nostalgia and a hefty amount of disbelief.
Like a lot of my young contemporaries, I had far too much to say for myself and plenty of opinions. Not much has changed has it really?
Which is why I have found the argument about whether or not 16 and 17-year-olds in this country should be able to vote so perplexing. A move by opposition politicians to lower the current minimum voting age by two years was last week thwarted by Conservative MPs who prevented a vote taking place in Parliament by effectively ‘talking it out’. Tory opponents to the proposal argued that under 18s lack “the political knowledge or maturity required” to make an informed decision at the ballot box.
I have heard that old chestnut trotted out quite a lot in recent days, mainly from those over 50 who seem to be spooked by the prospect of allowing another 1.5 million teens the opportunity to exercise a basic democratic right, fearing that they would all vote for Jeremy Corbyn. Firstly, it wouldn’t occur to huge numbers of teenagers to even register their right to vote, never mind dragging themselves away from the Xbox to get down to the polling station, and who says anybody young enough to name three Taylor Swift songs is necessarily a raging socialist?
But it is the notion that 16 and 17-year-olds should be prevented from voting because they may not understand the complexities of politics which has given me the biggest laugh of the week. If we stopped people voting on the basis that they don’t have the knowledge to do so, then I would suggest that future electoral turnouts would be no higher than 10 per cent, such is the general level of ignorance among huge swathes of the population. But thankfully, there are very few restrictions, other than age, on who can cast a vote.
The big complaint about the youth of any generation is that they are too busy enjoying themselves rather than making any sort of contribution to society. We can start by engaging them in democracy much earlier than we do.