I’m Indigo Haynes, and I’m Deputy Member of Youth Parliament for Torridge, North and West Devon.
I’d like to tell you about Youth Parliament: who we are, what we stand for, and how YOU can help.
Youth Parliament is an organisation that encourages young people to take part in British democracy. Throughout the country, every one to two years, depending on their constituency, young people between the ages of 11 to 18 are elected to represent their area.
You can find out more here: http://www.ukyouthparliament.org.uk/about-us/myps
The elected representatives are known as MYPs: Members of Youth Parliament. There are also Deputy MYPs, who carry out similar roles.
YOUTH PARLIAMENT CAMPAIGNS
Every year, Youth Parliament works on two key campaigns. These annual campaigns are decided via a long, democratic process.
Firstly, during the summer, MYPs congregate at a national conference that lasts several days. This is known as the Annual Sitting. It’s designed to encourage debate and networking among MYPs, and to add new campaigns to Youth Parliament’s extensive manifesto. At the end, MYPs vote on which parts of the manifesto should go on the Make Your Mark ballot.
In September, schools who have signed up to Make Your Mark are given ballots so that the students can vote for which issues are most important to them. Later in October, MYPs look through the top ten and vote on the five which they feel would be the most effective campaigns. Finally, in November, a select number of MYPs are chosen to go to London, to the House of Commons itself, and publicly debate these five issues in the House with other Youth Parliament members.
The top-ranked two issues become next year’s campaigns.
While this is happening, local counties plan their own campaigns. Earlier in the year, for instance, my home county of Devon ran a campaign to lower the prices of public transport for students.
Following our efforts, we managed to convince a few companies to lower their transport fares for people in education. It was a great success. The best part of Youth Parliament for me is being able to see that what we’re doing is producing actual change and making a difference to young people’s lives.
ANNUAL SITTING 2017
DMYPs like me are not usually able to go to the Annual Sitting, or the House of Commons debate. But because some of the Devon MYPs couldn’t make the Annual Sitting, I had the opportunity to attend in their place.
The Annual Sitting in 2017 was held at Liverpool Hope University. The South-West MYPs in attendance all met up and travelled there together in a group. It was a fantastic experience, and one I’m very grateful to have enjoyed.
John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, a very important parliamentarian indeed, came to the conference. He gave us a lively talk about Parliament and democracy.
At the end, I stood up and asked John Bercow a question.
I asked if, now he was Speaker, he missed being able to debate in the House of Commons like other MPs. The Speaker told me that he didn’t, because his role as Speaker was so rewarding.
At the conference, we also had workshops to help us campaign and prepare us for the Big Vote. That was when the people who wanted to add to the manifesto would give a speech, and the MYPs would debate. There were 600 of us, so the debates were exciting and engaging. (As was the Saturday night disco!)
I had never been to an Annual Sitting before. But those who had, said that apparently this year there were fewer motions passed than last year.
Some of the motions which didn’t pass included ‘Subsidised Gym Memberships for Young People’ and ‘Abolish University Fees’ – both of which were quite controversial. Those debates were the ones where the most people stood up to speak their mind!
HOUSE OF COMMONS DEBATE
In November, MYPs went up to the House of Commons to debate. They decided that our national campaigns for 2018 should be Curriculum for Life and Votes at 16.
Youth Parliament vocally encourages young people’s engagement in democracy, so these choices are unsurprising. A Curriculum for Life would be a curriculum which properly prepares students for being adults. It would teach us how to pay taxes, how to vote, and give us a proper education on the law and our human rights.
Votes at 16 is exactly what you’d expect. Young people are able to give consent, to have children at the age of 16, and yet they can’t vote to decide who should run their country! Votes at 16 is something I believe in passionately, though I’m only 14 at the moment. I’m overjoyed that Youth Parliament will be campaigning for it again next year.
WHY NOT CONSIDER STANDING FOR YOUR REGION?
Youth Parliament is an organisation which engages young people, and which is enacting real change. I am proud to be a Deputy Member of the UK Youth Parliament. I hope that now you too will be as engaged in politics as I am!
Why not consider standing for election yourself? Or helping out with a campaign?