Old enough to die for country?

I see Alec Salmond has started a debate about voting age in Scotland for his referendum on independence. He wants to reduce it to 16 to allow school boys and girls to have a say on the future of their country. Now I wonder why …..

Once in a while, there is a debate in England about the age of majority.  There is no doubt it is a muddle. In England you can get a job, join the Army (but not be sent into combat), consent to sex  and leave home at 16. You can drive a car and go to prison at age 17. You can vote, marry without consent, contract, buy land, obtain credit and buy alcohol and tobacco products at 18.

I was born on 9 July 1946 so reached the age of 21 and eligibility to vote on 9 July 1967.  Less than three years later, on 1 January 1970, the age was lowered by parliament to 18 years, enfranchising 18- ,19- and 20-year olds at a stroke.

Setting a legal age for voting, jury service, military service, marriage or a host of other issues of legal status is bound to be arbitrary. There are people who are remarkably mature at age 16 or even younger. There are plenty who exhibit great immaturity at double that age.   My test is simple.  Think of a 16-year old lad you know. Can he look you in the eye? Can he string together half a dozen words in conversation with you? Can he utter the words “yes sir”,’ “no sir”, “thank you sir”?  I think we both know the answers?  I think it is a joke to consider lowering the voting age anywhere in the United Kingdom.

I would develop a new approach.  I don’t believe you can form a measured view of society until you have either held down a job and brought home a pay packet for six months or employed staff and run a business yourself.  I would therefore restrict the franchise to those who could demonstrate one of these qualifications.  Of course, there would have to be exceptions.  In our politically correct age, there always are!  People with severe disabilities and unable to work should not be denied the franchise so there is one  exemption.  There may be a few others but the principle of linking work to suffrage has to be right.

About Keith R Mitchell CBE

Qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1967. Pursued a successful career in financial training and publishing until selling his interests in 1990. Elected a County Councillor for the Bloxham Division in 1989. Leader of Oxfordshire County Council 5 November 2001 to 15 May 2012. Chairman of the South East England Regional Planning Committee July 2002 to July 2005. Chairman of the South East England Regional Assembly July 2005 to July 2008. In HM the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours, appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of services to local government.
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One Response to Old enough to die for country?

  1. I tell you one reason why it wouldn’t work, you would have to apply the rule:

    “held down a job and brought home a pay packet for six months or employed staff and run a business yourself”

    To the MP’s standing for office, most of the front benches would be empty when all the former spads who have zero real world experience have to stand down. I don’t know Keith, sometimes I read you blog and I agree with you, other times I think you put these views out there for a laugh to wind people up.

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