As Helena Kennedy finally publishes the independent report on measures to improve British democracy, I must confess to being pretty disappointed. Frankly, I do not believe that lowering the voting age to sixteen is anything more than a gimmick. It is, I think, clear that the government has far too much power visa-a-visa Parliament. MPs in the government party can be tempted to abandon their independence, when faced with a new, more lucrative role as government ministers.
Meanwhile, opposition parties struggle to defeat the government unless a significant rebellion does take place. The whips, both government and opposition blackmail, threaten and cajole their charges into doing what the party leadership requires of them. Yet, in many ways it is only the independence of MPs that can challenge government power, and that independence is compromised from the start by the demands of the system. Parliament is not taken seriously, and as a result, the Executive branch has too much power- and unchecked it is making some serious mistakes.
One major example is the emerging crisis in public sector pensions. It now appears that the deficit in public sector pensions is four times larger than previously estimated: £81 billion is simply unsustainable- it is beyond a crisis. Unless this deficit is tackled, we will either crush our economy under massively higher taxes or drown it in debt. The only alternative is very radical reduction in the burden. State employees must not be permitted to retire early, and indeed the retirement age will have to rise sharply. This crisis has been long predicted, but the scale is now overwhelming, without immediate, urgent action, the consequences to the future of the British economy will be catastrophic.
Perhaps votes for 16 year olds might be justified after all- they are the ones who will have to pay the gigantic bills that a basically unfunded state employee pension scheme has created for the rest of us.