“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die…”
There is a time to vote too, though I admit Ecclesiastes missed that one out, but it’s not at the age of 16.
Messrs Salmond and Miliband think it is – inattentive as they are to the laws of nature and adolescent brain development.
In fact Mr Salmond thinks it is so important that he used his first opportunity in the Scottish Parliament after losing the referendum to call for the voting age in UK elections to be lowered to 16.
He even asked for a joint party vow it would happen in time for the general election – another promise Gordon Brown can insist will be kept.
Not to be outdone Labour’s leader, Ed Miliband, joined him on this democratic bandwagon yesterday. “It’s time to hear the voice of young people in our politics”, he oozed. His party would also grant 16 and 17-year-olds the vote, a treat the whacky Lib Dems have been promising them since 2010.
So where does that leave our ever outflanked modern Conservatives? Answer: on the sidelines again; this time at a new ‘three way’ wedding.
No vows from them will be forthcoming if we are to believe Grant Shapps’s protestations last year. Such a move would ‘politicise the classroom’ if youngsters still at school to be given the vote, he warned.
Though he didn’t mention it the numbers are not exactly in the Conservative Party’s party’s favour on this one either; despite its quest to be modern, the Party’s not yet on the radar of 16-year-olds – YouTube and Facebook.
The SNP, on the other hand, can afford to be modern and embracing. An exit poll of just over 2,000 Scottish voters by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft showed that the 16 and 17-year-olds enfranchised for the first time for the Scottish referendum vote were overwhelmingly in favour of independence (71 per cent).
It’s little wonder that Mr Salmond finds his new young followers to be “serious, passionate and committed citizens”. They voted for him.
By contrast, only 27 per cent of Scottish over-65s agreed with these youngster’s idealistic belief in independence in Lord Ashcroft’s sample. No mention by Mr Salmond of the wrinklies’ passion, commitment and seriousness. I wonder why?
Labour’s enthusiasm for youth I fear has to be put down to similar ‘interests’. The idea of benefiting from the votes of 1.5 million school pupils, generally thought more likely to be radical than their elders, has to be an attractive one to the charisma bypass Miliband.
Though how any teenager could possibly see Miliband’s bad maths and national plan B as anything but dyed-in-the-wool politics beggars belief.
But that’s teenagers for you. And that’s the point.
Honesty about the state and nature of teenage mind hasn’t been allowed to get in the way of the vote-grabbing momentum so far.
Of course, it suits Salmond to declare the case for this underage vote is “overwhelming” and “unanswerable” and to insist there is not shred of evidence against it.
But sorry, there is more than a shred, if you extended your reading matter to psychology. There’s a shedload.
Sentimental sound bites about the virtues and potential of young people are two a penny from today’s ‘wanabe popular’ politicians.
But the less flattering truth is that youth has it natural limitations. That’s why young people need guidance and rules more than more rights.
Psychologists tell us that adolescent intelligence is marked by egocentricity and wishful thinking. This is what makes young people prone to certain critical decision-making errors. This is the democracy that Salmond and Miliband would impose on us – a device to ensure we’d be governed no better than we deserved.
Psycholgists tell us too that adolescents are vulnerable to exploitation in their peer groups, in their friendships, and in their romantic relationships; that they are inclined to confuse fact with fable; that they tend to be narcissistic and egocentric and are bad choosers in their love lives. They are right.
It’s what any sensible adult already knows. This is the immaturity that defines adolescence.
Even though we allow them to marry at 16 and drive at 17 the truth is they are still not yet grown up, as most parents would concede.
Brain science backs this up. The brain’s risk centre is not fully matured before the early twenties. Why are car accidents so prevalent amongst the young?
So even if extending the franchise did suit Conservative voting numbers, it should still be resisted. Whatever romantic notions are spouted about harnessing youth’s political potential, voting at 16 is a very bad answer.