• Short Summary

    BRIDGEWATER IN SOMERSET, A PEACEFUL, STAID COMMUNITY OF 25-THOUSAND AT THE FOOT OF THE QUANTOCK HILLS THIS WEEK IS BRITAIN'S "GUINEA-PIG" TOWN.

  • Description

    BRIDGEWATER IN SOMERSET, A PEACEFUL, STAID COMMUNITY OF 25-THOUSAND AT THE FOOT OF THE QUANTOCK HILLS THIS WEEK IS BRITAIN'S "GUINEA-PIG" TOWN. FOR THE FIRST TIME IN BRITAIN, 18-YEAR-OLDS ARE VOTING IN AN ELECTION. IT'S A BY-ELECTION CAUSED BY THE DEATH OF THE SITTING CONSERVATIVE MEMBERS, SIR GERALD WILLS, LAST YEAR.

    WHEN THE LEGISLATION ALLOWING 18-YEAR-OLD SUFFRAGE BECAME LAW ON JANUARY FIRST, THIS YEAR, IT WAS HERALDED AS A LAW WHICH WOULD ALLOW THE VOICE OF YOUTH TO RING LOUD AND CLEAR IN BRITAIN.

    IN BRIDGEWATER, THE LOCALS ARE TAKING THE BY-ELECTION IN THEIR STRIDE. TO THE PEOPLE OF ENGLAND'S WEST COUNTRY, RARELY OUTGOING TO STRANGERS, IT'S SIMPLY ANOTHER BY-ELECTION BUT THIS TIME THERE ARE AN ADDITIONAL 2,500 TEENAGED VOTERS.

    THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT IS TAKING IT FAR MORE SERIOUSLY. MR. GEORGE BROWN, DEPUTY LEADER OF BRITAIN'S RULING LABOUR PARTY AND FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER, TRAVELLED TO BRIDGEWATER TO SPEAK IN SUPPORT OF THE LABOUR CANDIDATE, RICHARD MAYER. THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY'S SHADOW CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER, MR. IAIAN MCLEOD, WAS ALSO TO SPEAK IN SUPPORT OF THE CONSERVATIVE CANDIDATE, MR. TOM KING.

    IN THE LAST GENERAL ELECTION, IN 1966, THE CONSERVATIVES HELD THE BRIDGEWATER SEAT BY A MAJORITY OF THREE THOUSAND VOTES. THE 18-YEAR-OLD VOTE ADDS ANOTHER TWO AND A HALF THOUSAND VOTERS BETWEEN THE AGES OF 18 AND 21, TO THE ROLLS. IN ALL, THERE ARE 60 YOUNG PEOPLE OF 18, WHO WILL VOTE. THE BRIDGEWATER ELECTORATE NOW NUMBERS MORE THAN 65 THOUSAND.

    HOW, AND INDEED IF, THE YOUNG PEOPLE VOTE IS OF INTENSE INTEREST TO POLITICAL STRATEGISTS.

    IN MANY PARTS OF THE WORLD, THE MOVEMENT TOWARDS YOUNGER VOTERS IS NOT NEW. MOST COMMUNIST AND LATIN-AMERICAN NATIONS GAVE THE FRANCHISE TO 18-YEAR-OLDS MANY YEARS AGO. THE SOVIET UNION LOWERED THE VOTING AGE TO 18 IN THE 1936 CONSTITUTION.

    IN BRITAIN, PRIME MINISTER, HAROLD WILSON, HOPES THE THREE MILLION ADDITIONAL VOTERS IN THE 18 TO 21 AGE BRACKET WILL HELP TO GET HIS LABOUR GOVERNMENT ELECTED FOR ANOTHER FIVE YEARS. PUBLIC OPINION POLLS SHOW THE NEW VOTERS ARE AS DIVIDED AS THEIR PARENTS.

    THE BY-ELECTION AT BRIDGEWATER WAS EXPECTED TO PROVIDE AN INDICATION OF HOW THE TEENAGERS WOULD VOTE IN THE NEXT BRITISH GENERAL ELECTION, DUE ANYTIME BETWEEN THIS NORTHERN SPRING AND THE END OF MR. WILSON'S FIVE-YEAR MANDATE IN MAY 1971.

    BRITAIN'S LAST MAJOR CHANGE IN THE FRANCHISE CAME IN 1928 WHEN THE VOTE WAS GIVEN TO WOMEN OVER THE AGE OF 21.

  • Tags

  • Data

    Film ID:
    VLVABM1CAL0470640I18266TJLGQP
    Media URN:
    VLVABM1CAL0470640I18266TJLGQP
    Group:
    Reuters - Including Visnews
    Archive:
    Reuters
    Issue Date:
    11/03/1970
    Sound:
    Unknown
    HD Format:
    Available on request
    Stock:
    Black & White
    Duration:
    00:04:34:00
    Time in/Out:
    /
    Canister:
    N/A

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