The Body Shop is launching a new campaign in partnership with the British Youth Council to push for young people to have full voting rights by 2024, as has already happened in Wales in Senedd and local elections .
They will develop a ‘Votes at 16’ manifesto, calling on all political parties to incorporate full voting rights for 16 and 17 year olds in general elections, local elections and referendums.
The launch comes ahead of local elections on May 5, in which 16- and 17-year-olds in Scotland and Wales will be allowed to vote, but not those in other parts of the UK.
The Body Shop said young people had never been more active in civil society, with research suggesting there could be as many as 800,000 young carers in the UK, while almost a third of new enlisted in the armed forces are 16 or 17 years old. .
The report adds that young people remain underrepresented in politics, with just 3.2% of MPs aged 30 or younger, compared to 36% of the UK population.
Maddie Smith, Managing Director of The Body Shop, said: “We recognize the many issues facing young people and believe there is only one step we can take to create real change: empowering young people the means to have a voice in public affairs.
Jo Hobbs, chief executive of the British Youth Council, said: ‘It’s not fair that we have a postcode lottery when it comes to taking part in such an important democratic right.
“This is an opportunity for us to remind policy makers that young people have been demanding voter parity for local and general elections across the UK for 20 years.
“Politicians must empower a new generation of changemakers to participate so they can play an active role in solving some of the biggest societal challenges we face.”
The Senedds voted in 2019 to extend election voting to all 16 and 17 year olds in Wales. The Electoral Reform Society has since called on the UK government to follow suit.
Willie Sullivan, senior director, campaigns, Electoral Reform Society, said last year that there was a “enormous enthusiasm of young people aged 16 and 17 to vote”.
“As the leader of the Welsh Conservatives noted, parties need to ‘engage and listen to the next generation’, encouraging active citizenship which can improve the quality of debate for all,” he said.
“Votes at 16/17 are now a point of consensus in Scotland and now in place in Wales as well. The UK government must ensure that young people in the UK can also participate in the general election. We should establish voting habits that can last a lifetime, breathing new life into our democracy. »
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