go to the home page
see what Ruth is up to links to all Ruth's non-fiction publications links to all Ruth's crime fictions titles links to most of Ruth's journalist over the last four years
Belfast Telegraph logo
31 October 2016

Lowering UK's voting age to 16 would be an act of suicidal madness liable to ruin nation

Kids in their mid-teens are well intentioned, but they know nothing at all about politics, says Ruth Dudley Edwards

There have been calls to lower the voting age to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote
There have been calls to lower the voting age to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote

I don’t know about you, but I was a total ignoramus about politics in my mid-teens and so were the vast majority of my contemporaries. Fortunately, we didn’t have the vote. In this era — when the young get their opinions from the echo-chambers of social media — they’re even worse informed than my generation, who at least were exposed by their parents to the daily paper, some news bulletins, and family meals uninterrupted by smart phones.

Yet demands to extend voting rights to 16 and 17-year-olds are getting louder than ever.

Their votes, we are told, are absolutely vital in the war against the dinosaurs, who — in addition to such sins as opposing single-sex marriage — voted for Brexit and thus ruined the lives of every young person in the British Isles.

They are enthusiastically cheered on by nationalists, assorted left-wingers and all manner of activists who want support for Utopian environmentalism, fashionable gender issues and anything that plays well on Twitter.

Mostly, at the age or 16 and 17, people are guided by their hearts and their hormones and heads don’t get much of a look-in.

For some mad reason, David Cameron agreed they should have the vote in the Scottish referendum and, of course, the vast majority voted yes.

They weren’t interested in the boring economic realities that made their elders vote down the independence that would have made their country bankrupt.

I’ve made an attempt with a few to explain the point of view of us Brexiteers, but they’re uninterested in the wobbling euro, the destruction of Greece, the bullying of Ireland over tax, the cancer of youth unemployment or any of the other aspects of the EU that make it not unreasonable to support Leave.

No, they cry, stop being such a dreadful cynic.

Don’t you realise the EU is about peace and hope and visa-free travel?

Mention that you worry about uncontrolled immigration and you’re told it’s an unqualified good that’s racist to question.

As for single-sex marriage — which I’m happy enough myself with — to try to explain why there are valid and unhomophobic arguments against it, produces incredulity, while defending Ashers’ rights causes hysteria.

For when it comes to social issues, all that counts is love.

And with politics, it’s all about romance, which in the United Kingdom these days comes in two packages.

The Irish and Scots nationalists offer songs and speeches directed primarily against the English, who subsidise both Northern Ireland and Scotland heavily and without thanks.

And the left is dominated by 1980s fantasists and extremists who are systematically destroying the Labour Party with the help of an internal electoral army of gullible youth.

Corbyn and co have little interest in winning elections, but please their followers with meaningless, mendacious rhetoric about rights and fairness.

Both groups explain reality away like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz: “Somewhere over the rainbow/skies are blue/And the dreams that you dared to dream really do come true.”

In that world, money trees magically appear if you have faith enough.

Fortunately, older teenagers are less susceptible.

It’s true that both nationalists and Corbynites have garnered support from 18 to 21-year-olds, but most of that generation have experience of work or university and are already more realistic than their little brothers and sisters.

They know stuff has to be paid for.

Mostly, I’m a defender of the young, who in many ways are kinder and more open-minded than their predecessors.

Yes, they are worryingly unconcerned about the hostility to free speech and fear of honest debate that is disfiguring our universities.

And they’re so ridiculously protected they’re rightly nicknamed ‘The Snowflake Generation’.

But that’s the fault of their parents and teachers.

The rest of us should continue to oppose censorship, go on engaging in robust public argument, ridicule the fantasists and encourage the young to toughen up.

We should also strive to make a success of Brexit.

And at all costs, we should oppose giving the vote to a generation of pleasant young people who — if they could summon up the energy to get out of bed on polling day — could consign us all to the global poorhouse.

Ruth Dudley Edwards’ The Seven: The Lives And Legacies Of The Founding Fathers Of The Irish Republic, was published by Oneworld Publications on March 22.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards