SARAH VINE: The vote for 16-year-olds?

And they’re off! And I don’t just mean the almost biblical exodus of Tory MPs (including my ex-husband, Michael Gove, in a move that surprised even me). I mean the party leaders and their election teams, spouting promises they almost certainly can’t, or won’t, keep and policies that range from the ridiculous to the reckless.

Rachel Reeves insisting that Labour’s tax-and-spend binges are a thing of the past? Oh, come on! Unless Sir Keir is on weekly injections of fiscal Ozempic (and there’s absolutely no evidence), there’s fat chance of a Labour administration sticking to that pledge, especially given its plans to unleash a veritable orgy of public-sector spending.

And what about a cap on private-sector rents? It’s an idea that, having recently become a renter myself for a variety of calamitous personal reasons, I would selfishly welcome. But this policy has proved disastrous in Scotland where landlords simply sold up and the rental stock shrank, thereby – you guessed it – making the market even tougher.

Then there’s Labour’s genius idea to lift the VAT exemption on public-school fees, a policy that has already spooked so many parents that they’re already pulling their children out of the independent sector.

Even before the policy has been implemented, it’s cost around £22 million to create new state school places. Not to mention the damage to those children’s quality of education and mental health.

VAT on school fees seems level-headed compared with Labour's policy of votes for 16-year-olds. Talk about exploiting the gullibility and naivety of children for personal gain, writes Sarah Vine

VAT on school fees seems level-headed compared with Labour’s policy of votes for 16-year-olds. Talk about exploiting the gullibility and naivety of children for personal gain, writes Sarah Vine

In their desire to foment class warfare, Sir Keir and his team of Trots seem to have conveniently forgotten that not all private schools are breeding grounds for toffs, and not all children are there because their parents are snobs.

Just ask Diane Abbott. Oh, and Starmer himself, who attended a fee-paying school. But then, as ever with Labour, it’s one rule for them and another for the rest of us. (Never forget: all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.)

But VAT on school fees seems level-headed compared with Labour’s policy of votes for 16-year-olds. Talk about exploiting the gullibility and naivety of children for personal gain. Talk about infantilising democracy.

No doubt Labour will frame this idea as a bold move to ’empower’ the next generation. But the real reason is that it would be a slam-dunk for them.

Young people are more likely to vote Labour than Conservative. That’s just the way it is.

As the mother of two children, one in his late teens, the other in her early 20s, I’m familiar with the mentality and behaviour of teenagers. I’ve spent much time around them these past few years. And the one thing I can categorically say is that, although they are fascinating and lovable in a million ways, I would not trust them with my dry-cleaning ticket, let alone a ballot paper.

I don’t say this as criticism: it’s not their fault they’re so feckless. It’s simply their biology: humans do not fully develop their frontal lobe until their mid-20s.

This is the part of the brain responsible for abstract thought, judgment and social behaviour. Without a fully functioning frontal lobe, our capacity to assess risk, exercise restraint and fully comprehend the consequences of certain actions is severely impaired (for example, deterioration of this part of the brain often leads to antisocial or offensive behaviour in patients with Alzheimer’s).

That’s why adolescents are so vulnerable to online scams or bullying; why they are so influenced by fashions and fads; but also why they are fickle, so prone to changing their mind.

Adolescence is the developmental epoch during which children work out how to become adults – intellectually, physically, hormonally and socially. It’s a complex process, and it’s often a case of trial and error. At 16, we are at the very beginning of that final developmental stage (25 is the average age at which it reaches completion).

That’s why teenagers are such a handful: they’re full of adult hormones, and therefore highly excitable intellectually, sexually and physically; and yet their brains are not yet wired for adult life.

Lacking capacity for critical thinking – another higher brain function that resides in the frontal cortex – they don’t stop to question. They just chase instant gratification. That’s why they do spectacularly stupid things, such as buy tattoo guns on the internet and ink themselves or pierce their belly buttons in the middle of their GCSEs, or dye their hair blue, or get vomit-drunk and take drugs.

Or, as Sir Keir no doubt hopes, vote Labour because it’s a cool thing to say at parties and all their mates are doing it.

Muslim children in an Italian school have been exempted from studying Dante – because his great allegorical masterpiece, the Divine Comedy, places the Prophet Mohammed in Hell. For context, Dante also puts Pope Nicholas III in Hell and announces the imminent arrival of two others. No complaints from Catholics, as far as I know. 

What made Lana leaner?

Lana Del Rey has won a well-deserved Ivor Novello award for her songwriting. I couldn’t help noticing that she cut a much more diminutive figure than last year when my daughter and I saw her perform in London’s Hyde Park. Another case of that you-know-what weight-loss injection?

Lana Del Rey has won a well-deserved Ivor Novello award for her songwriting

Lana Del Rey has won a well-deserved Ivor Novello award for her songwriting

I loved seeing Prince George at the football with his dad – it’s such a fun thing for father and son to do together (and handy that the Prince of Wales is president of the Football Association). But I feel a bit sorry for the lad in his suit and tie. Most kids his age (ten) would be in a replica shirt of their favourite team. Besides, dads also ought to experience the financial shock of being rinsed each season for a new kit. 

Magazine’s portrait of the princess is just tat

Like many, I thought the red colours in Johnny Yeo’s portrait of King Charles were a bit off. But there’s no denying the likeness, and the skill of the artist. Sadly the same can’t be said of the portrait of the Princess of Wales on the cover of Tatler magazine. As well as being a terrible likeness, it’s terrible art. Was it commissioned by Meghan perchance?

Charlotte Church, bellwether for all things woke, pulled out of the Hay-on-Wye literary festival in protest over a sponsor’s links to Israel. Fair enough, it’s her prerogative. But she could contribute something positive to the crisis if she helped to free the remaining hostages held by Hamas. As far as I can tell, she’s never publicly acknowledged their plight or expressed an ounce of sympathy for victims of the October 7 atrocities. 

What insanity! A host of pictures of the queue at the top of Mount Everest – simply taken so people can post them on Instagram showing themselves on top of the world.

How will Larry the Cat, No10’s chief mouser, cope if (when) Labour storm into office? He’s only ever known life under the Tories. At 17, he’s a bit long in the tooth to be changing his political stripes. Would life under a new regime be challenging? Or would he, like Sue Gray, former Cabinet Office queen bee and now Starmer’s chief of staff, pivot seamlessly into his new role – taking all his secrets with him?