Daily Archives: 5 April, 2010

Calls to reduce voting age to 16

The major think tank Demos has suggested that the voting age should be reduced to 16, according to BBC News.

According to the Demos report, one million people aged 16 and 17 are disenfranchised by outdated attitudes. Demos Director Richard Reeves said that young people aged 16 are old enough to work and pay tax, but are not allowed to vote in an election. This is despte the fact that the Government and the country as a whole faces fundamental choices that will effect young people for years to come.

An increasingly ageing population will tip the voting demographic even further. This means that older people are likely to form the most powerful voting block in future elections. Demos’s research suggested that if 16 and 17-year-olds could vote, 41% would vote Labour, 30% would vote Tory and 21% would vote Liberal Democrat.

As Richard Reeves quite rightly states, of the first 100 British servicemen to die in Iraq, 6 were not old enough to vote. Therefore we are in the bizarre and nonsensical situation where a young person can put their life on the line for their country, but is deemed too immature to vote for the Government that will commit them to war in the first place.

Whilst it is great that more people are living longer, the changing nature of the British electorate could have negative effects on British politics. Increasingly politicians will pander to older people, which may not neccesarily be a positive thing for the future of Britain. I could imagine more funding and priorities going in this direction, as parties seek to buy the ‘grey vote’. Lowering the voting age to 16 would counterbalance this.

Not only that, but we often hear moans and groans about ‘the youth of today’. No wonder we have trouble involving young people in society if we disenfranchise them and cut them off. Lowering the voting age to 16 should go hand in hand with stronger citizenship lessons in school -not as token easy lessons but as a subject in its own right. That way young people will be educated about society and the choices that they face, and can put that knowledge into practise.

Young people aged 16 and 17 are more empowered and more involved in society than ever before. The voting age of 18 was set at a time when it was deemed that if you were not 18, you were not an adult. We only have to look at the progressive electoral reforms since the 19th Century – votes for women, for example – to see that the age limit of 18 for voting is the last great prejudice in electoral policy.

In my opinion there is no sound reason to keep the voting age at 18, apart from antiquated prejudice based on age old fears that young people aged 16 and 17 are too immature to make sensible choices – look at how some so called adults in politics behave! Not only that, but young people have a way of cutting through the bullshit.

If you are old enough to work, pay taxes, drive a car, get married and fight for your country, then you should be old enough to vote.

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1st Hampshires and the Race to the Sea

After the German advance was halted on the Marne, both sides then turned their attention to attempting to outflank the other by reaching the North Sea Coast first. If the Germans had reached the Channel ports first the BEF would have been cut off from its lines of communication to England.

After the Battle of the Marne the 1st Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment continued advancing until 12 September 1914. On that day the French on their left flank were heavily engaged by the Germans. Rain which had been falling throughout the day became heavier by the time the Battalion reached Septmonts. Again the 11th Brigade was tasked with effecting a river crossing, which was not completed until 3am the next day – the Bridge over the river was partially destroyed, and troops could only cross in single file.

After crossing the Brigade continued advancing, until the Hampshires were occupying positions around La Montague Farm, on high ground near Bucy-le-Long. Reconnaisance showed that the Germans were occupying trenches 1500 yards to their front. During the afternoon of 12 September the Hampshires were heavily shelled, but suffered no casualties.

The Battalion remained in their positions until 17 September – a foreboding of the 4 years of trench warfare that would ensue later. Conditions were poor. On the 16th the Germans brought up heavy guns – reported to be 8.5 inch mortars – and these were used in conjunction with spotter aircraft. This was perhaps one of the first examples of the use of aircraft for directing artillery fire. The Hampshires suffered heavy losses in their trenches. Also on the 16th the 10th Infantry Brigade arrived, and the two Brigades were reorganised, with the Hampshires coming under the command of Brigadier-General Haldane.

Between 11.30am and 1.30pm on 17 September Bucy-le-Long was heavily shelled by the Germans, which caused considerable damage. Between the 13th and 17th of September the Battalion lost a total of 11 men killed, with 2 officers and 54 other ranks wounded – all as a result of artillery fire.

On 18 September the Battalion again came under the 11th Brigade. They were occupying the same positions. On their left was a French Colonial Division made up of African troops. These positions were held until 24 September, unhindered by the enemy. During this period the Battalion rested and re-equipped, receiving equipment – apart from boots – and supplies. More reinforcements were also received, consisting of 3 officers and 266 men. On 23 September a new Commanding Officer arrived, Lieutenant-Colonel G.H. Parker.

The Battalion remained in position until 6 October, when they were relieved by the French. After 4 days marching on 11 October the Hampshires arrived at Estree St Denis, where they entrained and journeyed to Wizernes. After detraining they marched to Diselle. On 12 October the Battalion were driven to Hondeghine by Motor Transport, and on 13 October they marched to Fletre, reaching Bailleul on the 14th. The Battle of Armentieres had begun the previous day.

On 15 October 1914 the Battalion received orders to take and occupy Nieppe. On reaching the village the advance guard came under heavy machine gun fire, but succeeded in clearing the Germans from the houses. The Battalion remained in Nieppe overnight. On 16 October the Battalion spent time improving and entrenching their positions. At dusk orders were received to continue the advance, and succesfully occupied the river bank with little opposition. At 10pm however, Major Parker gave orders for the Battalion to fall back to Nieppe, where they fortified the village. The expected attack did not materialise however, and after an uneventful day the Battalion went into reserve at Armentieres Good Station on the 18th.

The Race to the Sea marked the end of the first phase of the war on the Western Front, where mobile warfare was still being fought. The First Battle of Ypres heralded the start of the stalemate of costly trench warfare that would, with a few exceptions, exist until 1918.

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