Before the publication of a Compass thinktank report on youth, Labour's children's minister, Lisa Nandy, told the Guardian that the party leader, Ed Miliband, was keen on the proposal and that she hoped to win the argument during Labour's "refreshingly open" policy review.
The MP for Wigan, who edited the report, entitled A Plan B for Youth, said she did not want to overstate the argument that older voters had much more power at the ballot box and were therefore given priority over younger voters in terms of party policy, but lowering the voting age to 16 was a way of "this generation showing respect for the next generation" and giving them a share of power.
The report follows the publication of the first tranche of the 2011 census results, which show the UK population is older than ever: over-65s now make up 16% of the population.
Nandy, who, at 32 is one of the youngest parliamentarians, added that lowering the voting age would also encourage voting habits earlier in life.
"I've long thought young people should get votes at 16. I think in the end it is whether you trust young people, and I do. I think they've got an enormous amount of energy. But also because, when we were putting the report together, it was really clear that in other countries … where they've tried this, it does help to get young people involved in the political system and that tends to persist.
"As a politician myself, having been in parliament for two years – there's a constant clamour for your attention from all over the place. And the truth is if people don't get involved and they don't vote and they don't make their voices heard, then with the best will in the world – I can't hear them."
Neal Lawson, head of Compass, added: "Young people don't just need policies, they need power – then they'll have a stake in the nation's future".
The report, written in conjunction with six other contributors also calls for:
• The suspension of national insurance contributions for under-25s to boost youth prospects in the job market.
• A parliamentary commissioner or ombudsperson for future generations,
• The education maintenance allowance to be fully reinstated
• A "positive" renting strategy for younger people who are living long term in the private rented sector without much hope of buying their own home.
• Under-25s to be offered a year's modern national service to aid "political, social and personal development".
Nandy said the national insurance proposal was not costed, but stressed that one of the concerns of the reports' authors was that "in any economic downturn, young people tended to be last in and first out".
Asked if she thought that under-16s were more intelligent than they used to be, she said: "I think intelligence and curiosity comes at any age … [but] 16-year-olds are more worldly wise than they used to be.
"At 16, we're asking young people to do all sorts of things," she said, which included working and being responsible citizens.
"The vast majority of young people do precisely that, so it seems quite odd in this day and age that we can trust them to do all of that but we can't trust them to have a share of power."
She said the proposal had Miliband's backing: "Ed Miliband has come out and said that he is very keen on the idea of votes at 16 so I am very hopeful that the party will endorse it, but obviously we are a membership organisation and we're going to have to have that debate and I'm going to have to win the argument. But I'm certainly keen to see it in Labour's next manifesto," she said.
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