Women’s suffrage: 100 years on, Emily Thornberry says ‘time has come’ for 16-year-olds to also have their say

PUBLISHED: 18:16 06 February 2018 | UPDATED: 08:22 07 February 2018

Islington South and Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry. Picture: Chris McAndrew (Creative Commons licence CC-BY-3.0)

Islington South and Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry. Picture: Chris McAndrew (Creative Commons licence CC-BY-3.0)


A century ago, the first women were finally given the right to vote. Now Emily Thornberry has declared “the time has come” for another group of people whose voices are silenced during elections.

Emily Thornberry raised the issue of votes for 16-year-olds at Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons last week. Picture: PA Emily Thornberry raised the issue of votes for 16-year-olds at Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons last week. Picture: PA

“In my experience,” the Islington South and Finsbury MP told the Gazette, “16- and 17-year-olds are as political as older generations.”

Filling in for Islington North colleague Jeremy Corbyn last week, Mrs Thornberry was the Labour Party’s voice at Prime Minister’s Questions, telling the government to learn the lessons of 100 years ago by reducing the voting age to 16.

And she said this week: “I regularly go to schools in my constituency, particularly City and Islington College, and in my experience lots of young people are very switched on politically.

“An awful lot of our decisions affect young people, but far too many politicians have not thought about younger generations.

“If you look at Islington kids, where are they going to live in 10 years’ time? How many will be able to buy a property? We are not providing homes for the next generation because of decisions older politicians have made.

“It’s about time young people get a say.”

At Prime Minister’s Questions, the MP of 13 years branded the government a “coalition of cavemen” over its opposition to votes at 16.

She added this week: “Once people get into the habit of voting, they are more likely to vote again. People are certainly mature enough to vote at 16. Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, supports it. It’s only the English Conservatives and DUP that oppose it.

“The time has come.”

Ms Thornberry pointed to Islington Council’s decision to close Farringdon superclub Fabric in September 2016 as an example of why more young people need to be invited into the political process.

“That decision was made in reflection of an older generation’s concerns,” she said, “without the input of young people who enjoyed the club.” The closure was reversed by the council two months later.

The Gazette approached the British Youth Council for eligibility data of 16- and 17-year-olds in both Islington constituencies, but no information was available.


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“With teenagers there’s a lot of banter, and you can really establish a relationship. You have to trust teenagers to make their own decisions.”

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