Children’s colouring books contain pro-EU propaganda, says UKIP

Patrick O'Flynn lets slip his desire to silence those who don't agree with his party


UKIP’s economic spokesperson Patrick O’Flynn has accused Nick Clegg and David Cameron of laying the ground for a ‘rigged’ referendum on EU membership.

Writing on the party website, Mr O’Flynn said:

“The Lib Dems are reportedly demanding that millions of EU migrants should participate, as well as pushing to include 16 and 17-year-olds who are statistically more likely to hold pro-EU views.”

He accuses the coalition of extending voting to 16 and 17-year olds in an attempt to ’tilt the result’ as school leavers were more likely to have been recently exposed to pro-EU views.

Then at a press conference this morning Mr O’Flynn, and UKIP’s deputy chairman Suzanne Evans, continued their attack on young voters, and accused Brussels of trying to brainwash children through school textbooks. Evans said pro-EU literature circulating in schools included:

“Colouring-in books on the Common Agricultural policy for primary schoolchildren right up to research projects at university level.”

She continued:

”The amount of money the EU is putting into this propaganda and throughout the entire education system is enormous”.

UKIP’s hostility to younger voters is reciprocated. A poll by Opinium in December found Nigel Farage to be by far the least popular party leader among 17-22- year-olds, with a 13 per cent approval rating. Only three per cent of this group said they intended to vote UKIP.

The decision about EU membership is huge. The economic and cultural effects of a UK withdrawal will have a profound impact on future generations, so it seems only fair that 16 and 17-year-olds should have a say in the decision. What Mr O’Flynn is suggesting is excluding a group of voters because they might vote the wrong way, a profoundly undemocratic proposal.

There are many reasons why young people may be more pro-European than the older generation, and they have nothing to do with ‘propaganda’ or colouring books. Without the EU, young people would have more limited job prospects, would find it harder to study abroad and harder to travel.

They are also less likely to hold the kind of views about overseas workers that UKIP promote. A survey commissioned by British Future in 2013 found that young people thought it important that UK policy on EU migrants did not stir up prejudice against newcomers :

“Let’s not stir up tensions before they’ve even got here – we can deal with the issues without being prejudiced.”

It looks like Mr O’Flynn wants to punish younger voters for the fact that, having grown up in a multiracial society, they are more liberal and tolerant than previous generations.

Citizenship education was made a compulsory part of the education system in 2002, yet the next generation are being denied full citizenship rights. At the Scottish referendum, over 100,000 16 and 17-year-olds turned out to vote. A poll by Lord Ashcroft showed that 71 per cent of them voted Yes, but among the wider 16-24-year-old age group 51 per cent voted Yes.

So yes, Mr O’Flynn is right in a sense; extending the franchise to younger voters on EU membership could have a very significant impact on the outcome. But it looks a bit desperate to conclude that we should exclude them.

Offering teenagers the vote means they are more likely to engage in politics earlier. Having the decision to take on a vote would actually encourage them to think critically and ask questions about Europe, to listen to both sides of the campaign. Without a voice in the debate, teenagers are much less likely to question their textbooks.

By lumping 16 and 17-year-olds and migrants together, Mr O’Flynn is simply demonstrating that UKIP would like to block the votes of anyone whose opinion they don’t like.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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5 Responses to “Children’s colouring books contain pro-EU propaganda, says UKIP”

  1. Leon Wolfeson

    “so it seems only fair that 16 and 17-year-olds should have a say in the decision.”

    Completely disagree. Referendums should use exactly the same voting criteria as Westminster elections, for the simple reason of democratic credibility. For that matter, we shouldn’t have referendums – both Atlee and Thatcher opposed them, and remaining within the bounds of their views to the left and right is reasonable.

    People are not disengaged from politics because they can’t vote younger, people are disengaged from politics because we have FPTP, a system which leads to a vast gulf between what people vote for and the government they get. Voting system reform is the answer, not granting the vote to younger people.

    (I’m simply rolling my eyes at the propaganda accusations, and I note Mr. Farrage is not slow to take EU cash)

  2. Dave Stewart

    I strongly disagree on this. If there is to be an in-out referendum it is 16-17 year olds who are going to have to live with the repercussions of either decision for the longest and therefore they should absolutely be allowed to have a say.

    I personally think that 16-17 year olds should be able to vote in all elections. If you are old enough to pay direct taxes you should have a say in how those taxes get spent ie a vote. If you do not think 16-17 year olds mature enough then they shouldn’t be paying direct taxes (no taxation without representation), they should not be able to marry, they should not be able to join the army and be sent off somewhere to die for a country which denies them any say in how it is run.

  3. Leon Wolfeson

    Then you’ve undermined the legitimacy of the referendum by having special criteria on who can vote. And why shouldn’t non-UK nationals vote if they work here, for instance?

    16-17 year olds are not mature, not adults under the law. You pay tax when you earn money, not at all the same thing – a newborn baby can “pay tax” if a trust fund’s income is high enough.

    And in fact, Britain is under a lot of fire for allowing 17 year olds to serve on the front line as soldiers, and 16-17 year olds require parental consent.

    It’s also basically a joke for general voting, since we have FPTP and little will change. No, voting system reform is important, voting *age* is a distraction.

  4. Old Imp

    Fptp is the system we have, the referendum rejected a change. Any other system rather than providing a Government 30-40% want produces one no one wants and we could end up like Italy with almost a new Government every year, and their system was supposed to deliver stability by keeping the Communist Party out of power!

  5. Leon Wolfeson

    No, AV was rejected, there’s a sharp difference.

    You might not want the situation found in most developed countries, where people get MP’s suited to their ideology, but I do.

    And Italy’s problems are based on using a nationwide pure party list system for their House, which are *highly* unpopular for agood reasons (Israel is another example of why that’s a terrible voting system) and not in contention. So please, irrelevant.

    No, let’s use MMP.

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