Why the Youth Parliament is not an “undemocratic waste of taxpayers’ money”

Sometimes I have to be surprised at how amusingly annoyed I get with online articles, and reading this one certainly fitted that bill. Harry Forbes, a “student” as we are told, is a young conservative and has a point to prove. Unfortunately to make his point he has to write an article and post it online, on the ‘Conservative Home’ website. For a bit of context before I respond to his article, the UK Youth Parliament is a nationwide organisation set up to give the youth of the country a voice – something which they lacked before it’s formation in 1998 and first sitting in 2001 (that’s Forbes’ first mistake). The idea was, and still is, to make young people get involved in politics and to give young people who do not have the vote the ability to bring about social change through representation in the UKYP and through campaigning.

UK Youth Parliament in Session
UK Youth Parliament in Session: UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor

Importantly this isn’t an attack on his political alignment, nor is it an attack on his views – we’re entitled to believe whatever we like – but this is instead a look at Forbes’ article itself. He made a number of mistakes – the most major of which is to not reference his sources, or in fact use any sources at all; not only does this anger me as a participant of youth politics, but it angers me as a student myself (something which he apparently is). In fact, his lack of sources opens up a large amount of holes in his article, most obviously where he got his facts from. He writes that he “started with some internet research, which provided me with stories of MYPs spending £15,000 on a party for themselves and wasting taxpayers’ money on chauffeur driven cars to meetings.” This quote is a perfect example of how weak his argument is, and shows his lack of referencing perfectly. As we all know, the internet is a mysterious place with incorrect information everywhere and as far as I know there has no MYP that I know of that has been spending £15000 on a party and chauffeured cars, and the idea of this is absolutely insane.

Along with this, Forbes goes on to comment on the electoral process, saying that only “After trawling the Internet for several hours I finally managed to find some information on how to stand” which for a fact is wrong, as a simple google search for the term “how to become a member of youth parliament” (or adding the county at the end) gave me all the information I needed.

In fact, both searches which I did took no longer than a minute, and both sites gave me all the information I needed from both the UKYP as a whole, and my local authority. Seems simple enough, and definitely did not take me an hour.

At this moment, I realised just how fabricated this article was, with a quite clear agenda and hugely biased – but what hammered it home was with his argument about how unrepresentative it was, completely ignoring the huge amount of votes (969,992 from across the UK) that the Youth Parliament achieved in a vote with 10 possible options, and the support from most of the Local Authorities across the country. He also criticises the MYP election process, denouncing the whole process “North Korean style” (which completely does not make sense) just because he was apparently denied from standing in the election by Wiltshire County Council (not UKYP), of which he has no proof of.

All in all, he is completely misinformed and if he really has a personal issue with the UKYP (which he obviously does) he should talk to a member, discuss what they do (because what they do is brilliant), and not refer to un-cited information. But for as much as I can write contradicting this article, I think that Speaker John Bercow (incidentally another party criticised in Forbes’ article) sums up the apparently “against all parliamentary tradition” UK Youth Parliament well, in his statement before its 2015 annual sitting:

“Welcoming the Youth Parliament for their annual sitting in the has become one of the House of Common’s most pleasant traditions.  Almost a million young people across the United Kingdom participated in this year’s vote, and I am pleased that they are taking advantage of the opportunity to make their voices heard in the heart of democracy in ever increasing numbers.” – John Bercow MP

Update: MYP Owen Winter’s Reddit Post gives some more insight into the article from a MYP’s viewpoint.

Sources (at least I remembered):

  1. Harry Forbes: The Youth Parliament is an undemocratic waste of taxpayers’ money, Conservative Home
  2. History, UK Youth Parliament
  3. UK Youth Parliament annual sitting kicks off Parliament Week 2015, Parliament
  4. Results Report 2015, UK Youth Parliament

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