Votes at 16 - What are the chances of it happening ?

House Of Commons

Labour has pledged to ensure votes for sixteen and seventeen year olds if it wins the next general election. Will it happen?

Speaking on Monday on ITV’s ‘Leaders live’, the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, made a firm commitment to introduce votes at sixteen should his party win the general election next May.

During the programme, in the democracy section, the Labour leader said:

“One very specific thing that we’re announcing today is that we’re going to have votes for sixteen and seventeen year olds. And today I am pledging to bring that in by May 2016."

But what are the chances of this actually happening? If Labour manage to scrape a majority next May then there’s next to no doubt that the idea will become law. But with a hung parliament looking ever more likely, this might be a little harder.

David Cameron has already ruled out his party offering the vote to those 16-18. Speaking to Sky News in September, the Prime Minister said:

"Voting is an enormous privilege and a right, but it's a right you should get at 18."

If the Conservatives get a majority, or form a coalition, or lead a minority administration then it is likely that votes at 16 will not happen for sometime. This of course could change, depending on the dynamics of the Conservatives’ relationship with other parties in the event they lead in a hung parliament.

This change will clearly depend on the make up of the parliament.

And considering that the 2010 Liberal Democrat manifesto committed the party to votes at 16 it is likely they will support it again. Additionally, the SNP, who could well play a major role in Westminster next year if recent seat projections come true, also favour votes at sixteen. In fact, 16 - 17 year olds were in fact allowed to vote in Scotland’s independence referendum earlier this year.

As for UKIP, their policy on the issue is unclear.

Overall, it is likely that votes to sixteen will eventually happen. Whether it will happen in the next parliament however will depend on numerous factors. With Labour and the Conservatives at odds over the issue then it will largely depend on who leads the next administration. If Labour lead a stable administration then it will surely happen; if the Conservatives lead then it is less likely, but will ultimately depend on who they bargain with for power.

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