EXCL Tories branded ‘hypocrites’ for letting under-18s pick next PM while blocking votes at 16
The Conservatives have been branded “hypocrites” for letting under-18s choose the next Prime Minister - despite rejecting calls to lower the voting age in general elections to 16.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats hit out at the Tories for allowing 15-year-olds to take part in their leadership election while refusing to support lowering the voting age for national polls.
The Conservatives offer membership to people aged under 23 for just £5 a year - with "full voting rights" given to any members aged 15 or over.
But the party is opposed to calls from campaigners to lower the voting age to 16 for general elections.
Cat Smith, Labour's shadow minister for voter engagement, told PoliticsHome: "It is hypocrisy for the Tory government to claim 16- and 17-year-olds aren’t mature enough to vote in elections, but not apply this rule to its own leadership contest.
“If young Tories can be trusted to choose our next Prime Minister, then there is no logical reason why all 16- and 17-year-olds can’t have their say in the future of their country in a general election.
“It's time to stop putting politics before people and extend the franchise to 16."
Layla Moran, the Lib Dems' spokesperson for young people, meanwhile said: "The Tories will allow under-18s to choose the next Prime Minister but they won’t allow them to choose their government or their own MP or whether or not they wanted to remain or leave the EU."
Ms Moran added: “In parallel, the Lib Dems allow all members a vote in the future of our party, and are committed to allowing all 16- and 17-year olds a vote in any future elections or referenda.
"Younger people deserve a chance to have a say in their futures and to shape our society. They shouldn’t only be allowed to vote for Jeremy Hunt or Boris Johnson.
"The Tories need to show some consistency, and not only when it benefits them."
As well as Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and the Greens also support reducing the voting age from 18 to 16.
Such a system is already in place in Scotland, where 16- and 17-year olds are able to cast heir ballots in local and Scottish parliamentary elections. They were first given the chance to vote in the 2014 independence referendum.
But a cross-party bill to lower the UK voting age foundered in the Commons in 2017 after Tory MPs were accused of talking it out, and successive Prime Ministers have spoken out against change.
In the same year, Theresa May said: "You have to pick a point at which you think it is right for the voting age to be. I continue to think it is right for it to be 18."
The Conservative Party did not respond to a request for comment.
But the party's most recent membership forms state that members aged 15 or above "qualify for full voting rights".
And a string of local Tory websites say that there is "no upper or lower age limit on membership, although children under the age of 15 cannot be enrolled as full voting members".
Jeremy Hunt's campaign meanwhile published a video earlier this month featuring a 17 year-old Conservative member who said he had cast his vote in the leadership race to "battle that stereotype that our age group are uninformed".