Labour has betrayed Wales’ youth on Assembly reform

Picture by George Martell (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Rhydian Elis Fitter , Plaid Ifanc

Most of Wales woke up on Tuesday thinking of the freezing temperatures, panicking about Christmas shopping, or generally dreading their journey to work.

However, in a small corner of Cardiff Bay, a panel of experts was presenting their findings to a not unimpressive (for Senedd events) sized audience.

Their recommendations were that Wales should have a significant increase in its number of Assembly Members, a change in the voting system, and – significantly for us at Plaid Ifanc – a lowering of the voting age to 16.

Plaid Ifanc, Plaid Cymru’s youth and student wing, has long campaigned for Votes at 16. We are not the only ones who have done so. We’re also not the only party political youth movement in Wales to have done so.

The Lib Dems’, the Greens’, and Labour’s youth movements have also pressed the case for lowering the voting age.

Labour had also committed themselves to introducing votes at 16 as early as possible in their 2016 Assembly manifesto. (p.20).

But their response to the report’s recommendations took us all by surprise.

Labour decided that rather than do the honest, common-sense, decent thing, and pledge their support to putting this report’s recommendations into practice as soon as possible, they will wait until 2019 before making their decision.

There is no logic to be found in this. The expert report which they initially supported has given them all the evidence they need.

The only conclusion that anyone can possibly gain from this decision is that this is a cynical attempt to derail the implementation of these recommendations until after the 2021 election.

As Simon Thomas AM said, this move “kills dead any hope of passing the necessary legislation before the next assembly elections”.

It would seem that Labour are doing all they can to lock in their unfair electoral advantage for one more election, even if it comes at the cost of their integrity, and at the cost of all those young people who relied on them.

Labour’s betrayal on this very issue is sufficient proof of why we urgently need to improve the scrutiny of our Government. This report represents a significant step in the right direction.

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