HURRAH – finally Boris wins a vote in Parliament and we will have a chance to elect a better Parliament on 12 December.
The election is again going to be dominated by Brexit and the conduct of MPs at every level, from ignoring their manifesto pledges (step forward the Remain elements of the Tory and Labour parties), through their colourful private lives (Vaz) to their lack of robustness and inability to take the rough along with their pay and allowances (Truss, Swinson and the rest). Other likely themes include the environment (played to Greta’s emotion as opposed to sound engineering). I very much doubt if there will be much debate on the economy now that Boris has found a magic money tree. It may appear on the Celtic fringes, where the SNP have bankrupted Scotland (again) and the English will have to bail them out (again). As yesterday’s Matt cartoon in the Telegraph says, there goes the end of the season of goodwill.
— Matt Cartoons (@MattCartoonist) October 29, 2019
The interesting bit was the suggestion that the Remain parties would support an election only if the franchise was widened to include 16- and 17-year-olds. Fortunately the Deputy Speaker refused to call the amendment but no doubt Bercow will find a way to tack it on to something if an opportunity presents itself.
The thinking (using the word in its loosest sense) behind this is that those aged 16 and 17 live with the consequences of elections for longer than 18-year-olds, 20-year-olds or pensioners. Therefore they should have a vote. The attraction of this to Remainers is that it is thought that the young are more pro-Remain, and therefore widening the franchise (with old people continuing to die) means that Remain will win next time round. But I don’t think Grieve, Letwin and the other fools who backed this have thought this through.
For a start there is the problem of representation without taxation –few 16-year-olds earn a wage and therefore few of them are taxed. So they have no ‘skin in the game’ when they get to decide which economic policy to vote for. Nor are 16- and 17-year-olds allowed to fight in the armed forces, so they have no skin in that game either. The argument that they have to endure the consequences for longer is facile and flawed; if you accepted it you would give the vote to six-year-olds on the grounds that they could read a ballot paper and write an X in a box. Of course the argument ignores the fact that parents think deeply about the world that they are creating for their children and vote and act accordingly.
The really interesting point is the tacit admission by its proposers that the people most likely to vote Remain are those with the least education and experience, having studied only to GCSE. This is a welcome change from their previous argument that only the uneducated voted to leave. It is a tacit admission that the Remain case cannot be won by logic, but only by emotion (fear). Stirring up a twitterstorm of protest, be it for the ‘people’s vote’ or Extinction Rebellion, works on images, not data and rationality. Indeed, the whole Remain camp decided upon the answer first and then produced the propaganda, rather than considering the facts, balancing the uncertainties between two alternative futures and selecting the one that they preferred.
This is not intended in any way to denigrate today’s A-level students and apprentices. In many ways they face more challenges than those of a similar age in 1914-19 or 1939-45. I am confident that they will, like their forebears, develop into capable, responsible and industrious adults. Hopefully by that time we will have found some decent politicians worthy of leading them (and us).