Old and young can unite to spice up a tired electoral process

DORIS DALY, a tireless campaigner for elderly rights in Westminster and Camden, writes passionately in our Wood&Vale edition this week about the need for London s senior citizens to get their act together politically and elect politicians who will pay att

DORIS DALY, a tireless campaigner for elderly rights in Westminster and Camden, writes passionately in our Wood&Vale edition this week about the need for London's senior citizens to get their act together politically and elect politicians who will pay attention to their needs.

Looking forward to the next mayoral campaign and Assembly elections, she says that all that is required for them to make a difference is the courage of their convictions and a leader who can united them around a dynamic silver agenda.

Colourfully, she's says it is time for the retired people of London to decide what they want and to stop being ''fodder for parasites on the greasy pole to power.''

Doris's column makes very interesting reading, and provides much food for thought for the new generation of pensioners who are looking at an uncertain future with pensions under threat, significant changes in the way health services are delivered, never-ending tinkering with the tax system, and the apparent disinterest of the mainstream parties in their ongoing concerns.

But as votes are counted across the country today, let's not forget another section of people at the opposite end of the political spectrum in terms of age and experience.

Almost a million 16 and 17 years across the country could not vote even if they wanted to. Some 170,000 of them are in London, enough to elect Assembly members of their choice.

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They can do almost everything else legally, including joining the army and being sent to war. ''You're old enough to kill, but not for voting'' wrote American protest singer Barry McGuire more than 40 years ago, and nothing has changed in this respect (though thankfully the Eve of Destruction he so angrily predicted has been kept in abeyance).

As election turnouts dip alarmingly, a rethink on the lower age for voting is overdue and some progress is at last being made. Earlier this year a new Youth Citizenship Commission was set up to consult on the lowering of the voting age to 16 and Labour MP Julie Morgan is planning to present a Private Members Bill to the House of Commons this summer, calling for 16 and 17-year-olds to be allowed to vote.

Camden councillor Ben Rawlings, who is leading a Votes At 16 coalition, feels the time is right for change because issues like youth violence and youth services have risen to the top of the political agenda. That being the case, he argues convincingly that it is vital for responsible and law abiding young people have their say. Amen to that.

These are issues which directly affect young teenagers and on which they can exert a positive influence more effectively than any fuddy-duddy politicians or society do-gooders ever could.

But young people also have strong and surprisingly mature views on our changing world, particularly in terms of education and the environment.

It may well be that by the time the next Mayoral and GLA elections take place, the capital's more senior citizens will have a much stronger voice, while people as young as 16 are casting votes for the first time. Old and young alike can conspire to deliver a much-needed reinvigoration of the entire electoral process.

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