The Prime Minister has promised to work with Loughborough to help re-open the university sector across the country in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, after unveiling his “conditional plan” to start the reopening of society.
During his speech to the House of Commons he reiterated that his new way forward, which includes unlimited outdoor exercise and the return of some people to work from Wednesday, was dependant on the “the common sense and observance of the British people”, and would be reverted if the ‘R’ number (the virus’ reproduction rate) increased above 1.
Additional advice released included recommendations to wear cloth face coverings in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not possible, the ability to meet one friend or family member in a park or open space whilst complying with social distancing, and 14-day quarantines for those arriving from foreign nations.
Questions still remain, however, about the status of universities as the crisis moves into its next stages. Yesterday in Parliament the MP for Loughborough, Jane Hunt, questioned the Prime Minister on this issue, claiming that Loughborough University “would like to bring back some student athletes to train, and its engineers to attend concentrated lab work sessions, all while maintaining social distancing on campus and isolation from the wider community”.
Mr Johnson confirmed that he would work with universities like Loughborough to help them provide students with access to vital facilities and safely continue their studies, as long as social distancing is maintained, adding that Loughborough is an “outstanding university”.
But Jane Hunt’s comments go against the message that the University itself has given to students, with Vice Chancellor Bob Allison demanding that “all undergraduate and postgraduate taught students do not return to our campuses”, and that all students must “not return to Loughborough University”.
He reiterated that all learning and teaching is now online, with students having no need to return to campus, with it being “too dangerous to manage a total community of nearly 20,000 people”. He promised that as soon as it was possible to do so, and “as soon as government advice allowed”, University management will welcome students back “with open arms”.
The Government’s official guidance makes no mention of when universities might be able to open up, although it does outline a new plan for the gradual re-opening of primary schools no earlier than June 1st.
However, there has been criticism of Boris Johnson’s new strategy from across the political spectrum, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer saying that the plan lacked “clarity and consensus” and “raises as many questions as it answers”. Similarly, criticism has also arisen from the nations of the UK, with the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stressing that the new message did not apply to Scotland, adding that her advice remained to “stay at home”.
As COVID-19 takes hold of the nation, towns and cities are more empty than ever. Before government regulations were imposed, I went around Loughborough town and the University to take some dramatic photos of the bleak landscape.
As Media Rep on the Claudia Parsons Hall Committee, I have responsibility for producing photos and media coverage for major events in the hall, notably the Freshers fortnight. Here are some of my favourites from the Freshers move-in day.
Claudia Parsons, Loughborough’s first new hall, since the expansion of the Student Village in the late 2000s, is opening at the start of next year. It will become the second largest hall on Campus, and will be home to 480 undergraduate students – both freshers and returners.
Over the last year, the University has started preparation for the expansion to the Student Village, which began with its official naming in June of last year. Claudia Parsons was a student at Loughborough University between 1919 and 1922 and graduated with a degree in Automotive Engineering – one of just three women on a course of over 300.
After her degree, she became a member of the Women’s Engineering Society, an author, and was the first women to circumnavigate the world by car. Vice Chancellor Robert Allison said that he was “delighted to honour her life and career by naming a new hall of residence after her” and that she deserved recognition due to her challenging “the conventions of her time – there can be no doubt that she blazed a trail for women working in engineering today.” Meanwhile, Claudia’s cousin, Emma Parsons, said that “Claudia would have been delighted by this, though surprised, for although she was a force, she was also modest and self-deprecating.”
The Hall is set to feature a unique ‘active campus’ design, which includes climbing walls, exercise stations and a running track circuit. It is also situated next to the brand-new Elite Athlete Hotel, and has its own Performance Athlete Block, which will be filled with Sports Scholarship students by the University’s Sports Development Centre.
The Hall has also recently had two logos – a crest and a coat of arms – created for it by students Helena Davey and Gaby Herrera-Diaz. Helena, who created the crest, said that it was “incredibly rewarding to have my design chosen to represent the Claudia Parsons Hall for years to come”, with the designer of the Coat of Arms, Gabby, telling the University that she “couldn’t resist designing a logo inspired by such a powerful and determined woman.”
The new Hall Committee (the first to be established since the Holt’s re-establishment in 2015) is headed up by Callum Parke, who also happens to be a former Hall Chair of the Holt. He told Label that “It’s really important to have the Hall named after a woman, especially one who was an engineer. Claudia’s achievements and outlook on life were incredibly inspiring and it’s brilliant that the Hall celebrates the success of an all-too-often under-represented group.”
The 17-strong committee is made up of keen volunteers from across the Loughborough Bubble – many of whom have been on a Hall Committee before – and have been tasked with the development of the hall as well as running its initial Freshers Week. “The atmosphere and buzz around campus during Freshers is great and it’s always a pleasure to be a part of it”, Callum commented. “It’s a big challenge for the Committee but it’s always an enjoyable one so I’m really looking forward to it.”
You can find out more about Claudia Parsons and the Student Village Project on their Facebook and Instagram pages, and you get involved with their freshers by affiliating or becoming a Fresher Helper when applications open later in the summer.
Winner of the BBC Sound of 2018, Sigrid was always destined to be big on the music scene. Rather than rushing out an album, like some might do in that situation, riding on the wave of success, Sigrid instead waited – and published a superb, wholesome blend of pop melody and raw emotion in her debut album, Sucker Punch.
A superstar in waiting, her superb first LP blends explosive pop alongside melodic ballads, composing an album full of feeling, emotion and passion. Many of the songs on the album will already be well known – Don’t Kill My Vibe and Strangers both performed well in the charts back in 2018, and alongside her latest single – Don’t Feel Like Crying – the album had a strong base of feel-good pop anthems.
Each new track packs a punch too. Mine Right Now‘s 80s vibes are energetic and full of life, while Basic, one of the masterpieces of the album evokes emotion over an ever-building and catchy ‘nah nah nah’ melody, which would make anyone tap their foot along to the beat. Both In Vain and Business Dinners have bold and mature cores which build up and blast feel-good pop at the listener.
Dynamite and Level Up, in contrast, provide acoustic ballads to the album, providing a momentary rest between her other more energetic songs, complementing them perfectly – and providing a sublime balance between the two. Her arrangements move beyond and build upon the genre itself: although there is, of course, a core of deftly-orchestrated electronic pop, there are also more instrumental and classical features in their plenty – the electric guitar solo in Sucker Punch, the piano chords that are central to Basic, and the bold strings within Sight of You‘s melody.
However, her original tracks top off what is an incredible album. Don’t Kill my Vibe, a song about her experience being dismissed by a male producers in writing session early in her career – has lost none of its energy and charm, while Strangers and Sucker Punch both continue to throw Sigrid’s raw and unadulterated energy at her listeners.
There is no doubt that Sigrid as a singer has an impressive range and ability – however, it is her songwriting and composing ability which demonstrates her true range and dexterity in Sucker Punch, and shows that she will be a huge hit for years to come.
After a bitter defeat in the Commons, Prime Minister Theresa May has three days to decide the next steps for a Brexit faltering in its tracks, and a confidence vote to fight on Wednesday.
After Theresa May suffered her second Brexit defeat in 24 hours on Wednesday Evening – this time led by her own MPs who forced the Government to provide revised plans within three days rather than 21 – there was little doubt that today’s vote on the Brexit deal would fail.
Despite attempting to provide assurances to her own party and the Democratic Unionists that the Irish Backstop would not come into play (the mechanism that ensures that there will be no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland by subjecting goods that pass between the rest of the UK and Northern Ireland to checks), the issue remained too contentious, and was not deemed solved by MPs in the Commons, despite a delay of over a month since the original scheduled vote, on December 11th.
The government lost by 230 votes, with 202 MPs siding with them and 432 against (the biggest government defeat since the 1920s). But what happens now for a Prime Minister, and a Government, teetering on the cliff-edge?
The Commons will now have a chance, in just three days time, to vote on alternative policies – everything from a ‘managed no-deal’ to a further referendum, a ‘Norway option” or a revamped version of the current deal. But this will come after a vote of no confidence, tabled by Jeremy Corbyn, to be voted on tomorrow.
In fact, there are five possible main options for what could happen now – all of which (bar a No Deal scenario) would have to be approved by Parliament before the 29th March.
1. Vote of No Confidence or General Election
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has tabled a vote of no confidence, and with even her own MPs rebelling against her, and no majority for a no deal in Parliament – could this pass in the house, and force a General Election or simply for her to resign? The last that succeeded was against James Callaghan’s Labour Government in 1979, and won by a single vote. However, with the amount of Government defeats only rising, with tonight’s the biggest in a century, it isn’t an unlikely possibility that it could, especially as the DUP’s vital 10 MP’s support for the current Brexit deal has been withdrawn (although they are still likely to support the Prime Minister in a vote).
Rule changes in 2011 made it more difficult for the opposition to call an early general election or force a vote of no confidence – with the latter requiring two votes to pass, each 14 days apart. Even if the opposition don’t call for one, it is possible that her own party, or the Prime Minister herself could call one (although the consent of parliament is required for both). Regardless of who calls one, this situation would almost definitely require the extension of Article 50, by either the current or new parliament.
2. No Deal
If all else fails, the default position as set out by the European Withdrawal Act is a no-deal Brexit. Both UK and EU law dictates that this will happen if neither side can agree on a deal, and although the government would likely want to pass legislation to ‘manage’ a no-deal scenario, this isn’t essential, and would have to be passed through Parliament first, after another defeat on the 8th ensured this.
However, with the clear lack of a majority in the House for a No-Deal, as shown with the vote last Wednesday, it seems unlikely that the UK will leave without some sort of deal, or without at least the attempt of a General Election or change in Government first. A large majority of MPs from all sides will do whatever it takes to block a no-deal scenario, even going as far as to change the House’s rules, so the possibility of Parliament blocking a no-deal scenario outright isn’t out of the picture.
Although this situation also looks increasingly unlikely, a renegotiation is theoretically possible – however both sides have stated that this will not happen. May argues that the deal is the best deal possible, and although sought clarification, would not seek for renegotiation. The EU says that renegotiation is not possible, at least not within the current timeframe.
Article 50 would have to be renegotiated and extended, with the EU then drawing up a new deal, the Government then approving it, and subsequently, the consent of Parliament then being given. The difficulty of this cannot be fathomed, but nevertheless, it’s not impossible, and would likely lead to a softer Brexit scenario than many in parliament and the electorate would want.
4. Resignation or Revocation
Theresa May survived a challenge to her leadership in December, and therefore, under the Conservative Party’s rules she can’t face another for at least 12 months. But there is always the possibility that she could decide to resign anyway if she can’t get her deal through. This would trigger a Conservative leadership campaign, which could last up to a month, and result in a new Prime Minister.
Even more unlikely is the complete revocation of Article 50, and the cancellation of Brexit altogether. Polls suggest that there now an even clearer and widening majority for remaining in the EU and although unlikely, a Prime Minister may decide this is the only way to create stability in an ever-changing environment.
5. A Second Referendum
The final possible option is a second referendum – a “People’s Vote”. As with the option of renegotiation or an early election, this would also require an extension of Article 50 and the delay of Brexit – but it’s looking increasingly possible, with the idea gaining some traction in the House, although Corbyn seems unlikely to take the step many of his supporters want and publicly support a second referendum.
This would require new legislation to enable the referendum, and for the Electoral Commission to define the question – but it is likely to take upwards of 20 weeks to plan and enact – way beyond the end of March. And even then, a referendum (like the last in 2016) is only advisory. The Government has no obligation to follow the result of a referendum and if the result is close, may continue on the path of Brexit regardless – a fruitless exercise.
However, the options may not even be in the Government’s hands, after a cross-party group of senior MPs threatened that Theresa May “will lose ability to govern” if the scale of the defeat was big enough. Senior MPs are plotting to change the House’s rules, so motions proposed by backbenchers take precedence over government business, changing the ancient relationship between the government and its parliament. Such a move would be unprecedented, but in the current climate, anything is possible, including even a change to centuries old legislative practice.
Whatever happens, however – this is the most tumultuous time in British Politics for over 30 years. History is happening right in front of our eyes, and for political junkies it’s like Christmas has come around again. In three days, we will find out the Government’s preferred approach to solving this crisis, but the real result of today’s vote may not be seen for weeks, months, or even years.
The last few years have been a whirlwind for me. Elected to the Youth Parliament at the end of January 2016 I never expected, two years later, to have been as involved as I have. Throughout the last four years I’ve worked my way up from being a member of my local youth council in Kent to running one of the largest youth parliaments in the world – and I’ve loved every minute of it.
Leaving the Youth Voice system gave me a nostalgic desire to look back over my experiences in Youth Voice and this post is, in many ways, something like a diary for me to look back on in years to come and remember the good times I’ve had: My Youth Parliament Journey in some way…
Before Youth Parliament
I spent almost two years in the Kent Youth County Council after being elected in 2014, working on local programmes and campaigns which would improve the lives of young people in Kent hopefully for years to come. Alongside my friend Ollie (who was also elected from the same school as me), we worked on as much as we could, especially getting involved with work on Mental Health and for a Curriculum for life (both committees I chaired over my 2 years in the council).
Creating resources (which can be found here), small-scale campaigns, and regularly meeting with county councillors was great, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in politics, but at the end of the day it wasn’t my passion – and although leading these campaigns and ending up as the Cabinet Member for Education and voted ‘Member of the Year’ was amazing for me, I felt like I was missing something and I wanted to make affect further change, on a bigger scale.
The Panel at the 2015 Youth Select Committee
Giving evidence at the 2015 Youth Select Committee
Giving evidence at the 2015 Youth Select Committee
The Youth Select Committee was my first view of the real change which could be created by BYC and the Youth Parliament – my involvement with oral contribution to their 2015 report on Mental Health was eye-opening and drew me to the local elections to the Youth Parliament at the start of the following year, with the Members of Youth Parliament on the panel inspiring me. For the next 6 months I looked forward to the elections, and in January 2016 I was lucky enough to be elected for a seat in Kent.
Member of Youth Parliament
2016 may not have been one of most successful or inspiring years politically, with the Brexit and Trump votes respectively dividing nations and communities, but for me it was the year that changed me the most, with the influence of UKYP playing a major part in this.
Every MYP starts their term with an induction residential – mine was in Doncaster – where they get to know new MYPs, network, and learn the important skills necessary for the role: public speaking, lobbying and teamwork. Through BYC’s ‘Forgeford’ mock-council exercises, outdoor activities, and various campaign sessions, we were able to start work on the new campaigns (at the time “Don’t Hate, Educate” and Mental Health), pushing these in our local authorities and Youth Councils. In these sessions, I met one of my best friends to this day and found out first-hand how the Parliament really is a catalyst for change.
The Annual Sitting (now called Annual Conference) was the next major event – where MYPs debate manifesto issues which may later trickle down onto the Make Your Mark ballot and then possibly develop into campaigns – the first of mine was in York. Huge debates on issues such as devolution, votes at 16 and tuition fees headlined the event in the university’s main lecture hall, and those 3 days allowed me to further understand the vision and direction UKYP has, as well as meeting new friends from across the nation.
It was the Procedures Group and their role in York, however, that made me decide to run for the PG role. So, at the next convention in London (where MYPs meet in groups of regions to work on campaigns and assist with further training and networking) I ran for PG, never expecting to really get the role after technically only a year as an MYP.
I ran on three main points, and never really anticipating my campaign to be successful (the incumbent Kelly, as well as two extremely good MYPs were also running):
1. To create a UK Youth Parliament fully led by young people, for young people.
2. To examine and revamp the UKYP Procedures Book and the UKYP Manifesto, concentrating on making it clearer and simpler, improving voting procedure and focusing on the redundant manifesto points from past years.
3. To improve communication & campaign cooperation between all regions.
However, somehow I was elected – and my year as the Procedures Group representative for the South East would start (although still 5 months down the line)!
My first House of Commons event was fantastic – an event I’ll never forget. The liveliness and energy in the room is something which can’t be compared, and each year I’ve been the quality of debate has improved again and again. From debates on a Curriculum for Life to Mental Health, Discrimination and Votes at 16, the debate was thoroughly diverse and fascinating to listen to, with Darragh O’Reilly’s famous ‘Channel 4 Speech‘ on “the old man in Kent” being a particular highlight for most (and something Darragh will never live down, 4+ million views and counting)!
To sit on the green benches is such a privilege and an honour that everyone in that room treasures together. On that day I also met many members of the new procedures group, the group which I would be working with for the next year, and after Convention 3 in December it was time to get ready to become the South East’s Procedures Group Representative.
Procedures Group Representative
We started off our year with a residential where we started to look at the Procedures Book (the document which governs UKYP), our responsibilities, the campaigns for the next year and how to run them, as well as looking at the role we were taking on, whilst getting to know each other much better! It’s safe to say I’ll be staying in touch with every single one into the future.
Despite a long gap after this, it felt as if nothing had changed come the Ashford MYP training residential in April – and although I was a fan of the venue as it was only a 20 minute train ride back home, some of the other PGs and MYPs were not so fond of the food and accommodation at #MyKingswood (yes, I think they got the message Darragh)! However despite this, it was still a great weekend running sessions, managing the Forgeford leadership exercise and helping out the MYPs in the start of their year.
After an Annual Sitting meeting to view the location and plan out some of the events, our first convention came relatively quickly, and although getting to know the new regional MYPs and starting to facilitate was nerve-wracking and tiring, the three of us at our regional convention took this in our stride and went into Convention 1 with gusto, with Annual Sitting 2017 (now renamed by us as ‘Annual Conference’) just round the corner!
Despite the very early start to go up North for Annual Sitting, the long journey was worth it, as attending the conference from a staff perspective gave me a whole different insight into the effort and time that goes into its planning and running the event (especially as a fair amount of that, including sessions and the debate sessions were up to us)! The event started with the traditional opening ceremony, inspirational speakers and sessions for the MYPs, and by the Saturday the conference was in full swing, with John Bercow (Speaker of the House of Commons) the main attraction, with debates chaired by the PGs up and running later on in the day.
Topics debated were varied and broad, including motions to ‘Support for Young Carers’, for further ‘Digital Security in the Curriculum’ and even to ‘Consult young people in regeneration projects’. All of these had a great quality of debate and were impressive from an outsider’s point of view, with the 2017 manifesto the culmination of the weekend’s work. Looking back on it now, it was one of the best events I have ever experienced, not just because as a group we managed to pull off a great weekend, but because the MYPs had a fantastic time, met new people, and grew as people throughout.
This continued into the conventions later in the year, with MYPs growing and developing through to the House of Commons Sitting in November. Our convention team (formed of Matthew (East of England), Oscar (London) and I) were fantastic and although Matthew constantly wanted a song and dance at each convention, we managed to limit it to only one (and Oscar and I managed to dodge it entirely)! Teaching MYPs how to develop their campaigns and work on both a national and local level was a great experience and it was great to impart the knowledge we had gained over the several years beforehand onto our new MYPs, assisting their own development and creating the next set of PGs in the process.
Convention 2 prepared the MYPs for the House of Commons Sitting, the highlight of the year for any MYP. Hours of speechwriting and practicing for the front-bench representatives from each region and nation culminated in the event in which all 400+ MYPs meet again in London and decide on the two campaigns which will be worked on for the next year, based on the top 5 issues from the ‘Make Your Mark’ ballot which ran earlier in the year.
The quality of the debate once again was fantastic, and to be able to sit back and relax from the side and enjoy it was a great experience. After the event, we headed to the outskirts of London for our final residential meeting, where we went through the Procedures Book and discussed what to change and how to improve Youth Parliament in the future, as well as considering how a future with Britain outside of the EU will change operations and parliamentary education as a whole. Many changes were made, and the direction of the new campaigns (Curriculum for Life and Votes at 16) were decided on, before we had to deal with the inevitable teary final farewell to the group we’d spent so long with over the last year.
Leaving the Youth Parliament is a strange feeling. Not just the fact that I’ll be leaving a group of friends who have all become so close over the last year, but because a major part of my life (and to some extent my identity) is coming to an end. For years, if anyone has asked what I do, I say ‘Youth Parliament’ and inevitably end up explaining my role and the organisations’ importance. But now – that’s all over. Handing over to a new set of PGs at the final convention somewhat accentuated this; I have to give up this identity to the next set of individuals who will be able to steer Youth Parliament in their own direction.
My ‘Youth Voice Journey’ as BYC likes to say, has come to an end. Now it’s time for a new journey, and for a new generation to travel the same path as I did. Not a new journey where I simply abandon my passion for Parliamentary education, but instead one where I help to champion it as an adult that’s been fortunate enough to grow through the system which I owe so much to.
I want to say a final thank you to everyone I’ve worked with over the last 4 years:
Thanks to Claire, Sadie, Hannah and the rest of the staff at Kent Youth County Council for starting my journey, and to Joe, Skye, Ollie, Thea, Elena and the rest who were on the journey with me!
Thanks to Zoe, Brendan, Sascha, Francesca and the rest of the staff at UKYP – although admittedly we had differences in vision we still made positive change (as Darragh would call it, ‘Reform’) and you managed to guide me in the right direction through those two years, always wanting the best for UKYP.
Thank you and good luck to everyone else I’ve met through my time in Youth Voice, from my region to everyone else I met at Annual Sittings, Conventions and in the Commons!
But finally, I want to thank the whole PG group for being a fantastic group of people to be around, making my last year at UKYP an amazing one!! You’ll all be missed!
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.
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.
Simple enough search (15 seconds)
Slightly longer search (20 seconds)
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.