At 16 you can have sex with your MP – but you can’t vote for them! This claim is made in an article today by Cat Smith, Labour’s shadow minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs. It’s a memorable line – and it’s true. But it’s not really very helpful in helping decide whether to lower the voting age of not.
The article also repeats the frequently-made claims about being eligible to pay tax, get married or even join the army at 16. Just for the record: you can pay tax at any age; you can get married at 16, although in England and Wales you require parental permission to do so; and whilst you can join the armed forces before 18, you (again) need parental permission, plus you are not supposed to serve on the frontline until 18.
Some people think the claim about being able to have sex with your MP is not true – because you are not allowed to have sex with someone in a position of trust until you are 18. But the Sexual Offences Act 2003 doesn’t include MPs in this category, so this doesn’t apply – although it is worth noting, in passing, that in the event a crime had been committed, any jury would not include any 16 year olds – because the law says they’re too young.
So it is true that you could have sex with your MP at 16, but not vote for them. But when trying to woo them, you also couldn’t buy them a drink. You couldn’t purchase post-coital cigarettes, and you certainly couldn’t drive them home afterwards. If you wanted – literally – to celebrate with a bang, you couldn’t buy a firework. And if you wanted to bronze up before taking your clothes off, you couldn’t go into a tanning booth.
There may be arguments for lowering the franchise, but this one is spectacularly bad.