The government's basic manifesto commitment to turn Britain into a lunatic asylum, with the patients in charge, came a little closer to realisation recently when Harriet Harman, the Minister of State in the Government Equalities Office, suggested that the universal franchise be extended to 16-year olds.
Miss Harman, who is one of the Cabinet ministers responsible for constitutional reform, gives the clearest sign yet that the Government is seriously considering allowing 16-year-olds to vote.[From Children of 16 may be given the vote - Telegraph]
I cannot fathom the reasoning behind this transparently insane suggestion: I don't doubt that the next suggestion will be to extend the vote to household pets (they are stakeholders too). I can only assume that the government think (possibly correctly) that 16-year olds are so stupid that they might be persuaded to vote in the correct way come an election. For all I know, that may well be an integral element of the policy.
"What is needed is a population educated just enough to be able to read simple propaganda, but not educated enough to challenge it". Lenin.[From An Experiment : January 2008 : Slightly Grumpy : My Telegraph]
If anything, we should be going in the other direction, putting the voting age back up to 21 or perhaps even 31. Who cares what 16-year olds think? About anything, I mean, not only politics. This really will mean compulsory asparagus for breakfast...
A fifth of British teenagers believe Sir Winston Churchill was a fictional character, while many think Sherlock Holmes, King Arthur and Eleanor Rigby were real, a survey shows.[From Winston Churchill didn't really exist, say teens - Telegraph]
In a spirit of open-minded public service, however, I would like to put forward a compromise that I think neatly addresses all of the real requirements of the current situation. In the same way that young drivers are allowed a provisional driving licence before they can drive by themselves, why not allow people to have a provisional vote when they are 16? Just like the provisional licence they would not be allowed to vote by themselves but only if accompanied by someone who had paid income tax in six of the preceding twelve months. Alternatively, let them vote and have the provisional votes tallied and displayed, but don't let the provisional votes count toward the result. That way, politicians and journalists and anyone else mad enough to care could see which way "the provisionals" are voting but no-one would actually be elected by a vote from someone who thinks that Hannah Montana is on a par with Kenneth Clark.
My plan is considerably less idiotic that the government's. It meets Ms. Harman's goal of drawing "the kids" into the democratic process (just when everyone else is leaving) but doesn't let them have any actual control. Perfect.
The more I mull it over, the better it sounds. And in thinking about it, I've come up with a few refinements. First of all, just as you have to keep your provisional licence until you've passed your driving test, I think that people should have to keep their provisional vote until they leave full-time education with some minimum qualification, such as GCSE passes in English and Maths, or something like that. Secondly, we you get above a certain age, then you should have to have periodic refresher tests otherwise your licence will be taken away.