UK Politics

Tory MPs accused of blocking votes-at-16 bid

Young voter Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The voting age in Scotland has been lowered for elections to Holyrood but not Westminster

Labour have accused Conservative MPs of "sabotaging" an attempt to lower the voting age for general elections.

Labour MP Jim McMahon said Tory MPs had deliberately made long speeches during an earlier debate "to reduce the amount of time" available for his proposal.

Deputy Commons speaker Eleanor Laing rejected the claim, saying MPs would have been stopped if they had gone on too long and were entitled to make "passionate" speeches.

But Mr McMahon stuck to his guns.

He said the government should be concerned about its MPs' tactics "because 16 and 17-year-olds today might be denied the right to vote but in two years' time, they will remember who blocked them from having that democratic right only two years earlier".

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Media captionTory MPs accused of blocking votes at 16

His private member's bill would have given 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote in UK general elections, local elections and referendums.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who backs a reduction in the voting age, made an appearance in the Commons chamber to support Mr McMahon's Bill and was greeted with cheers from his MPs.

During a stormy debate, Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin said: "It would be a great mistake to lower the voting age to 16. Most 16 and 17-year-olds do not have the level of political knowledge or maturity required."

But Scottish Conservative MP Luke Graham praised giving 16 and 17-year-olds the vote during the 2014 independence referendum.

He said: "We actually extended the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds, which as a pragmatic Conservative we saw as a valuable test - wouldn't you agree they passed that test with flying colours, and we should be a United Kingdom in giving the right across our country?"

Several Conservative MPs earlier made lengthy speeches in support of Labour MP Steve Reed's proposals for reforms to managing the appropriate use of force in mental health units.

In theory, debate on Mr McMahon's bill will resume on a Friday in December, but in practice the Bill will be so low on the agenda, it's unlikely to get any debating time.

Shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs, Cat Smith, said: "By sabotaging this important vote, the Tories have once again demonstrated to a generation of young people that they do not take their views seriously.

"However, the fight will continue. Labour will continue to work with other parties to force the government to lower the voting age."

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