Votes at Sixteen


The announcement by Ed Miliband that Labour would introduce votes at 16 was a significant step in setting out a different way of doing politics. As a member of the Better Politics policy commission over the last few years we have been grappling with the issues of disengagement and disillousioment that are ever present features in our politics today. It was as a member of this commission that I saw the Votes at 16 go from idea to Ed Miliband’s announcement at conference.

The National Policy forum has a number of commissions and each member of the policy forum has a place on these commissions. As a member of the Better Politics commission under the chairmanship of Johanna Baxter and Sadiq Khan MP we took forward the issue of young people and politics and spent a year asking for feedback on this issue.

We spent hours in meetings, the unglamorous part of the process, looking at submissions from party members, listening to experts like the Hansard Society, hearing from shadow ministers and debating what Labour’s policy should be. The responses from members were overwhelming in favour of us introducing votes at 16. Alongside that many had the sense that this policy alone won’t solve the problem of disengagement but it is the keystone in a wider package of both formal and informal citizenship initiatives.

With this in mind, the Better Politics commission put the options to the National Policy Forum conference in Birmingham in June last year. The forum voted overwhelming for Votes at 16 to be introduced by a Labour Government alongside a broader citizenship education. This then went forward to conference, then into Ed Miliband’s speech.

The turns and twists of the National Policy forum aren’t always that easy to follow, but member’s voices do feed into the process. The reforms introduced two years ago, means all submissions can be viewed online, making it easier to see what members think and reply to them directly.

We will start the final stages of drawing up our manifesto in the next month. CLPs will have a chance to debate and amend ten policy documents before they go to the National Policy Forum in July this year. Members should take part to ensure their voice is part of our manifesto for the 2015 election.

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