Body Shop launches campaign for Westminster to follow Wales and give votes to 16 year olds
The Body Shop is launching a new campaign in partnership with The British Youth Council to press for young people to have full voting rights by 2024, as has already happened in Wales at Senedd and local elections.
They will develop a “Votes at 16” manifesto, calling for all political parties to incorporate full voting rights to 16 and 17-year-olds in General Elections, local elections and referenda.
The launch comes ahead of local elections on May 5, in which 16 and 17-year-olds in Scotland and Wales will be allowed to vote, but not those in other parts of the UK.
The Body Shop said young people have never been more active in civic society, with research suggesting there could be as many as 800,000 young carers in the UK, while almost a third of new enlisters in the armed forces are 16 or 17- year-olds.
The report added that young people remain under-represented in politics, with only 3.2% of MPs aged 30 or under, compared to 36% of the UK population.
Maddie Smith, managing director of The Body Shop, said: “We recognise the many issues facing young people and believe there is one simple step we can take to create real change: empower young people to have a voice in public affairs.”
Jo Hobbs, chief executive of the British Youth Council, said: “It cannot be right that we have a postcode lottery when it comes to participating in such an important democratic right.
“This is our opportunity to remind decision-makers that young people have been calling for voting parity for both local and general elections across the UK for 20 years.
“Politicians must give a new generation of change makers the opportunities to participate so they can play an active role in resolving some of the biggest societal challenges we face.”
The Senedd voted in 2019 to extend the vote in elections to all 16 and 17 year olds in Wales. The Electoral Reform Society have since called on the UK Government to follow suit.
Willie Sullivan, Senior Director, Campaigns, Electoral Reform Society said last year that there was a “huge amount of enthusiasm among 16 and 17 year olds for voting”.
“As the leader of the Welsh Conservatives has noted, parties need to ‘engage and listen to the next generation’, encouraging active citizenship that can improve the quality of debate for everyone,” he said.
“Votes at 16/17 is now a point of consensus in Scotland and now in place in Wales too. The UK government must ensure young people across the UK are able to take part in General Elections too. We should be building voting habits that can last a lifetime, giving our democracy a new lease of life.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.