Simon Danczuk MP

Fighting for Rochdale, Littleborough and Milnrow

Letter from Parliament 18 December

ONE problem which preoccupies MPs of all parties is how to get more young people engaged with politics.

In the Houses of Parliament this week, politicians missed an opportunity to do just that when it was finally decided that 16 and 17-year-olds will not get a vote in the EU referendum.

Labour Peers in the House of Lords challenged the Government’s assertion that registering 16 and 17-year-olds to vote would cost too much, but they were voted down by 263 to 246.

I fear that short term savings will be outweighed by the long term cost of political disengagement.

This was just the latest in a series of attempts to give 16 and 17-year-olds a say in the planned EU vote, but efforts have been consistently blocked by those who believe under-18s cannot be trusted to make such an important decision.

Let us be clear, this is not a vote on permanently extending the franchise. This is a chance to offer an exception and give young adults a say in a one-off decision which will shape the direction of the UK in years to come.

The majority of 16 and 17-year-olds I meet are perceptive, articulate and more than capable of understanding both sides of a complex argument. Giving them a say in the referendum would provide a golden opportunity to engage young people in the classroom, in public debate and instill a whole generation with a lifelong enthusiasm for politics.

As we saw in Scotland, giving 16 and 17-year-olds the vote in a referendum can help revive interest in politics in an era when General Elections turnouts have been consistently below 70%.

My stance on this issue has been clear about that for a long time. If you are old enough to get married, pay tax and serve in the armed forces, then you should be able to have your say in the way your country is run.

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