Clive Lewis to read letter from Norwich 17-year-old, Ruby Staton, in votes at 16 debate

Clive Lewis, Norwich South MP, will read 17-year-old Ruby Staton's letter in a parliamentary debate

Clive Lewis, Norwich South MP, will read 17-year-old Ruby Staton's letter in a parliamentary debate on lowering the voting age to 16. Photo: Norwich Youth Advisory Board - Credit: Archant

Clive Lewis is due to speak in the House of Commons today during a debate on extending the franchise to 16- and 17-year-olds.

The Labour MP will read a letter from 17-year-old Ruby Staton, from Notre Dame Sixth Form, detailing her argument in favour of lowering the voting age.

In her letter, Ruby said: 'I'd say the best argument against our democracy is a five minute conversation with a 16- or 17-year-old that desperately wants the opportunity to vote but can't.'

Mr Lewis described his choice to use Ruby's words instead of his own as a 'symbolic gesture', to represent the fact that this age group is effectively voiceless in parliament.

The Norwich South MP added that the campaign for votes at 16 was important to him in light of the EU referendum.

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'This is a massive issue.

'We've paid a price for the government not giving 16- and 17-year-olds a vote on the Brexit.

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'They can do all these things but they can't have a say in the future of this country.

'This is about giving them a voice - at 16 you're deemed an adult, and in that sense I think its high time that they had a vote.'

Mr Lewis added that he had considered what he could do to empower young people in his Norwich South constituency

He reached out to the Norwich Youth Advisory Board, which Ruby is a member of, to get their views. He said; 'I wanted to be their mouthpiece.'

The MP also said he supported greater political education in schools and colleges.

He said: 'Its not about box ticking - democracy is about having informed citizens.'

Following the debate, MPs are due to vote on a bill to lower the voting age to 16, which has been brought to the Commons by Labour MP Jim McMahon.

The Greater Manchester MP told Buzzfeed News he was quietly optimistic about its chances, and said: 'I think the time has come.

'A lot of the arguments that are being made to deny 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote today were the same arguments being deployed 100 years ago to deny women the right to vote.'

Campaigners say that 16-year-olds can marry, pay taxes, join a union, and consent to sex, all of which are marks of adulthood.

According to Office of National Statistics figures, Norwich has 2,389 16- and 17-year-olds.

Ruby Staton's letter:

'I first became interested in politics during the 2010 General Election. I remember being in my kitchen aged 10 and asking my mum all about how elections work, and I vividly remember that I couldn't wait to vote. Seven years later and I am still excited at the possibility of voting.

'I support votes at sixteen for so many reasons. Winston Churchill once said that 'the best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter'. I'd say, the best argument against our democracy is a five minute conversation with a 16 or 17 year old that desperately wants the opportunity to vote but can't. We Brits pride ourselves on being progressive, a role model to the world. It is on this issue that we need to lead the way next. Our democracy needs to include these powerful young voices; we cannot let our democracy fall behind.

'You're quite right if you're thinking that not all 16 and 17 year olds want to vote, or have any interest in politics. But neither do all over-18s. I don't think this issue is about those who don't want to vote, it's about those who do, and giving us that option.

'Interest in politics among young people is rising, and many issues affect us - the mental health services available for young people, our education system, housing, benefits, minimum wage, and so much more. At this time in our lives, we, as young people, are fresh out of, or continuing in education, surrounded by others well-placed to educate us on world issues and politics. We hold specialist knowledge on issues affecting the people of our generation. The best voice for young people is the voice of young people.

'Some people may not come out to vote, but that should not deter you from supporting this bill. Allow those of us at this age to vote if we wish. Our generation deserves a voice in the democratic process as much as any other, and at a time when the UK is facing key decisions about its future, it is now essential to give us the vote.

'Democracy is great, let's enhance it.'

About Ruby:

Ruby Staton is a 17-year-old student at Notre Dame Sixth Form, studying History, Politics and English.

She is also a member of the Norwich Youth Advisory Board: a local group which provides a platform for young people to have a voice, advises local government on youth issues, and campaigns on issues affecting young people in Norwich.

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