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This announcement was quickly overtaken by the announcement of a general election, which saw Harold Macmillan, the Prime Minister, lead the Conservative party to a third consecutive victory, and any momentum behind the issue was lost.
By the time of the 1964 General Election, however, the voting age was firmly back on the political agenda.
When young people are enfranchised a new voting force will enter politics and the needs of youth will receive far more attention than they have so far.
Moreover, democracy in this country urgently needs the vigour and impatience of youth…
During and immediately after the Second World War, motions to lower the voting age to 18 were decisively rejected without full parliamentary debate, and only the Communist party showed any sustained interest in the issue.
Overall, though, discussions of voting patterns remained dominated by class, gender and region.This is largely because lowering the voting age to 18 is seen as an inevitable and uncontroversial outcome of changing societal attitudes to young people.And clearly, at a macro level, this was part of a much wider process of reform in Western liberal democracies, most of which followed suit in the 1970s.But Britain was the first major democratic nation to lower the voting age to 18, and the passage of this legislation was by no means straightforward: Parliament was divided about it, as was public opinion, and there was considerable scepticism and anxiety within the Labour government that passed it.Examining what happened before and after the 1969 Act helps us both to understand the dynamics of voting age debates – the hopes and fears on either side, the difficulties of resolving the discussions – and also to explain why the legislation did not generate the levels of political participation among young people that reformers had anticipated.