'It's Their Future Too', Says Hilary Benn, As He Announces Labour's Push For EU Referendum Youth Vote

'It's Their Future Too', Says Hilary Benn, As He Announces Labour's Push For EU Referendum Youth Vote

Labour is to push for 16 and 17 year olds to be given the right to vote in the EU referendum, saying it is "about their future too".

Writing in a blog for HuffPost UK, Hilary Benn, Labour MP for Leeds Central and shadow foreign secretary, highlighted the vast numbers of youths who registered to vote in the Scottish referendum.

"Scotland has given us a glimpse of what enfranchising 16 and 17-year-olds can mean," he wrote. "Over 80% of them registered to vote in the referendum last year. They participated and brought energy and vitality to the debate."

The EU referendum is set to take place by the end of 2016, with the referendum bill currently being debated in parliament. The bill has its second reading on Tuesday, and Labour will be seeking to amend it to enfranchise British 16 and 17 year olds.

Benn added: "Forty-five years ago the United Kingdom legislated to extend the franchise to 18-year-olds (previously you had to be 21 to vote). We were one of the first countries in the world to do so.

"There were those who opposed the change then - as there have always been people who stood against the extension of the franchise - and yet now it has become an established part of our democratic life."

Benn is a vocal supporter of giving youths the right to vote in the referendum

The British Youth Council has been campaigning for youth votes since 1998, and the movement is gaining momentum as increasing numbers of young people clamour for the vote.

Speaking to HuffPost UK, Ciara Brodie, a 16-year-old from Liverpool, says she would "love" to be able to vote in the referendum.

"I just think too often politicians play political football with young people," she muses. "We seem to be the easy ones to ignore or play around with- for example the education reforms, tuition fees, educational maintenance allowance..

"It's just turning us off politics, and making us increasingly frustrated with the system."

Daniel Wittenberg, a 17-year-old living in London, says the opposing arguments are simply flawed.

"People my age are simply not too stupid, impressionable or disinterest to come up with a legitimate Yes or No answer," he tells HuffPost UK. "In fact, our future engagement with politics relies on politicians listening to us and representing us now - and that means enfranchising us."

On Sunday, David Cameron appeared to threaten ministers who want to campaign for Britain to leave the EU, saying they would no longer be part of his government.

The Prime Minister's spokeswoman has since said his comments had been "over-interpreted".


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