From Mitch McConnell to Joe Biden: are US politicians older than in the UK?

From Mitch McConnell to Joe Biden: are US politicians older than in the UK?

US senator Mitch McConnell appeared to freeze for 30 seconds during a press conference which has raised questions about the ages of politicians in America.

The 81-year-old is the minority leader in the upper house of Congress and one of the most powerful men in the world, according to Time, but was speechless during proceedings.

Wednesday’s event was the second such radio silence from the Republican leader in recent weeks and came after he was asked a question over whether he would stand for re-election. Mr McConnell stood very still and did not respond until he was led away by his staff.

His team reportedly said he will now consult a doctor.

If he does not stand aside, Mr McConnell will stay in post until 2026, when he will be 84 years old, and some have now called on him to stand aside.

Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster, told CNN: “It’s one of the problems that we have with Washington, which is that there is a time to lead and a time to pass on the torch to another generation.”

Mr Luntz’s comments could also be indicative of other aging politicians in top positions, such as Joe Biden— who is a long-time friend of Mr McConnell.

Former US governor Nikki Haley has gone as far as proposing a mental competency test for politicians over the age of 75.

But does the US have a problem with aging politicians, and how does it compare to the UK?

Joe Biden has answered questions about his fitness (Evelyn Hockstein / Reuters)
Joe Biden has answered questions about his fitness (Evelyn Hockstein / Reuters)

How old is Joe Biden? How old is Donald Trump? And are they the oldest politicians in the US?

Joe Biden is now 80 years old and would be 82 in January 2025, when he could be sworn in as US president again. He would be 86 by the end of the term.

There has been much speculation over his physical fitness for office. Ms Haley told Fox News in April: “I think that we can all be very clear and say with a matter of fact that if you vote for Joe Biden, you really are counting on a President Harris [Kamala Harris — his vice president] because the idea that he would make it until 86 years old is not something that I think is likely.”

Mr Biden said in April: “With regard to age, I can’t even say I guess how old I am, I can’t even say the number. It doesn’t register with me.”

Donald Trump is not far behind. Having just entered a not guilty plea in his Georgia election racketeering case, the former president has not given up hope of a further term in office at 77. He would be 82 if he wins another term and is still one of the bookies’ favourites.

The Mail Online reported this week that an AP-NORC poll found that 77 per cent of US adults thought Mr Biden is too old for office, while 51 per cent thought Mr Trump is.

Mr Biden has additionally reportedly privately admitted to feeling “tired” while Democrat senator Dianne Feinstein is the oldest in the house at 90 and in reported declining health.

The average age of a senator is 64 years while the average age in the House of Representatives, the lower chamber, is 57 years old. Grace Napolitano is the oldest in the lower house at 86 years old.

There is no upper-age limit in the US. A YouGov poll in January 2022 found 58 per cent of Americans support an upper-age limit for elected officials in principle, and the survey did not state what this age could be.

Jeremy Corbyn is still going in his 70s (PA Archive)
Jeremy Corbyn is still going in his 70s (PA Archive)

How old are Rishi Sunak, Sir Keir Starmer, and politicians on average in the UK?

The British Prime Minister is around half the age of his US counterpart at 43 while Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, is 60, having become an MP in 2015 after a legal career.

Labour’s Keir Mather, recently elected at 25, is the youngest MP and the House of Commons has an average age of 51 — compared to 57 in the US.

As for the House of Lords, the average age is 71 — significantly older than the 64 years in the equivalent US Senate. Sir Bill Cash is currently the oldest sitting member in the House of Commons at 83 and the oldest in the House of Lords is Trixie Gardner, Baroness Gardner of Parkes, who is 96. These ages are both higher than the oldest in the House of Representatives and Senate, respectively.

The UK also does not have an upper-age limit for being elected. The idea of enforcing one was proposed around the time of Jeremy Corbyn, now 74, potentially becoming prime minister in 2019 but, as his attempt fell away, so did the discussion.