On Friday 2 February 2018, Tinchy Stryder performed an hour long set at Loughborough Students Union to a sell-out crowd in Room 1. I was there to photograph the whole thing…
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 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!
Select episodes from Season 1 of LCR’s Fake News are now available online!
If you’ve missed us on a Friday Evening (7-8pm) on radio.lsu.co.uk then why not catch up online? Select episodes are available both here and on the LSU Media Website.
You can catch the the first show of the all-new nine episode Season 2 on Friday 12th January 2018 on LCR.
Join Josh, Chris and guest Sam in the first Episode of Season 1, where Catalonia’s Independence was the main talking point of the week.
Broadcast 27th October 2017
Josh and Chris are back in the studio, with Sam returning for his second show. This week, the Paradise Papers, JFK files and Bin Laden Files dominate the week’s agenda.
Broadcast 10th November 2017
Joshua And Amie delve into the week’s news – with Trump’s tweeting yet again catching global attention! The MyLboro App hits the headlines on campus.
Broadcast 1st December 2017
Josh and Chris return for the Fake News Christmas Special, alongside LSU Media’s very own Tim McGovern, who talks to us about Tim Tries and gives his opinions on the top stories of the week.
Broadcast 8th December 2017
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.
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):
- Harry Forbes: The Youth Parliament is an undemocratic waste of taxpayers’ money, Conservative Home
- History, UK Youth Parliament
- UK Youth Parliament annual sitting kicks off Parliament Week 2015, Parliament
- Results Report 2015, UK Youth Parliament
Here is a link to the British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee on Mental Health; one of the processes that go into writing a report into the state of Mental Health services and education throughout the UK. BYC is a UK charity that works to empower young people and promote their interests and is run by young people, existing to represent the views of young people to government and decision-makers at a local, national, European and international level; and to promote the increased participation of young people in society and public life.
You can view the Final Report (pdf) and Oral Evidence Transcript (pdf) provided to the select committee below, which describes in detail everything discussed, and the important final conclusions that BYC has come to on young people’s mental health issues – the funding for state services, the role of education and awareness and stigma of issues.
Edited November 2015 for final report.