Greta Thunberg. File/ AFP
James Moore, The Independent
Exhibit A: Greta Thurnberg. A figure of global import who at the age of 16 stands at the head of a peaceful campaign to clean up the planet despite having buckets of polluted bile thrown at her by supposedly “responsible” and “mature” adults every day. She can’t vote in her native Sweden. She wouldn’t be allowed to vote if she held British citizenship either.
Exhibit B: Boris Johnson, a bloviating, law-breaking demagogue who shamelessly, and successfully, encourages violence against other elected representatives. He can. Extending the franchise to cover 16- and 17-year-olds is very much on the agenda as their elders systematically and wilfully engage in sowing chronic distemper around what was once a decent sort of country.
Opposition parties favour the idea so we may yet join the likes of Austria – where 16 is the age of majority – sooner than you think.
That would be a welcome development.
Opponents of such a move like to argue that 16- and 17-year-olds are not mature enough to make choices about their and the country’s future because, I don’t know, they watch a lot of YouTube and sometimes like to sleep with each other with unintended consequences. As if that can’t happen to anyone with a functional reproductive system. Greta Thunberg inspires climate activists everywhere: In pictures. So let’s take on the issue of “maturity”? Yesterday The Times ran a baleful front page warning of riots if our law-breaking gangster government fails to “deliver Brexit”.
Who is it that’s threatening them?
Who is it bandying around words that in another context might get you hauled before the local magistrates for a ticking off together with a demand that you spend some time cleaning up the local canal? Incitement to riot is a crime, in case you hadn’t noticed.
It certainly isn’t 16- and 17-year-olds. It isn’t 18- or 19-year olds for that matter. You might find a fair number of teenagers cheerfully waving signs with the occasional potty-mouthed joke on them while enthusiastically blowing whistles at Final Say marches. You won’t find them caving in the windows of MPs’ offices as has been happening in recent days.
It is a corps of mostly middle-aged and older men egged on by Tory MPs in an unholy alliance with those on their (far) right flank, who are engaging in that sort of behaviour.
But, but, but, how on earth can we let them vote when we don’t let them drink?
Yes, I’ve seen variants on that one. Growing up is a process. You get different rights and different responsibilities at different ages.
That thing about alcohol, which you can obtain fairly easily at 16 (I did and I doubt it’s changed much since I was a teenager) is that it is a drug that, once again, plenty of older folks regularly prove they are not mature and responsible enough to handle. A good example would be a government advisor by the name of Dominic Cummings, who’s fond of confronting shadow cabinet members while stinking of wine late at night.
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By the way, you are criminally responsible at the age of 10, far younger than in most European countries. I’m not going to argue that a 10-year-old should get the right to vote on the criminal justice system that considers them as responsible as an adult for their actions. But perhaps the “they’re not mature enough to vote” brigade might like to spend some time addressing that one.
What you can do at 16 is jump into bed with a partner of your choice (see above) pay taxes and make decisions about your future – mostly you’ll be in education but the choice regarding the direction you take is still yours. You can also marry and pick up a gun in the service of your country although you’ll have to get your parents’ approval.
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