Listen to the young on voting at 16

Sixteen years have passed since the campaign coalition was created in 2003.

Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for West Worthing
Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for West Worthing

At the debate hosted at County Hall by West Sussex County Council, it was plain that there are few good reasons to delay extending the opportunity. It is the right thing to do.

For fun, look at the reasons given against the reduction to 18, against the reduction to 21 for women, against older property-owning females, against men who happened not to have assets above a limit – and so on.

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I do not buy the argument that all age restrictions should be the same. The age to buy fireworks or to be a customer in a tanning booth can be decided separately.

The All Party Group on Votes at 16 this week publishes an updated Campaign Report. My article ‘Making the Case for Progress’ comes at the beginning.

Some constituents may not be convinced, at least yet. I will put a web link for the report on social media.

The dominant and convincing approach is to assume we want the average age of participation in a general election to be at or around 18. Registering at 16 allows that because we anticipate five years between national votes. I do not approach this issue with calculation of party advantage.

The same approach might be of advantage in the challenge of implementing the decision in the European Referendum with least disadvantages and greatest opportunities.

As I write, it is not clear what will follow the marathon meeting of the Cabinet.

The country is divided, the range of views is reflected in voices in the Commons; the members of the cabinet do well to stick together.

The suggestion I made in Parliament on Monday was for the Speaker to get people together to agree a run-off vote between the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement and the most popular alternative. I am holding my breath, metaphorically.

On Wednesday I had one of my occasional interviews on BBC Radio Ulster.

I explained that the Democratic Unionists risked turning victory into defeat.

If the EU/UK relationship goes awry, there may be the conditions for a border poll; the majority of younger people in Northern Ireland could well vote to remain in the EU by uniting Ireland – then the DUP would have lost their prime purpose.

When campaigners cause MPs’ inboxes to be flooded with emails, we can wonder if they understand that single messages asking for help or advice can be buried.

Technology is transforming our lives, mostly for the better.

Direct communication allows my team and me to respond quickly to issues that matter.

Also, we try to send occasional non-party newsletters with updates on things that may matter locally and nationally.

Do please let us know if you would like your email address to be included on the circulation list.

Tim Loughton MP and I welcome the mayoress Sandra Baker and the youth mayor Katie Waters to Prime Minister’s Questions; a week ago they could have heard me.

Switching to sport and exercise, and looking forward to the university boat races this weekend, I joined the meeting of the Parliamentary Rowing group.

I was the captain of the successful Commons crew in the inaugural race against the Lords.

A few years later, the two best performers on the dry land rowing machines were the Lords captain and me. It took three attempts to come top.

After I had won the parents’ sack race at a primary school, a friend commented to my wife that I had put in a real effort.

She replied that I was in an occupation where the person who comes second does not have a job.


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