On Friday 23rd November I was lucky enough to be part of the United Kingdom Youth Parliament’s annual House of Commons debate for the second consecutive year but this time I had the honour of speaking from the dispatch box, a once in a lifetime opportunity.
I was elected back in October to represent London in the annual debates at the British Youth Council convention which brings together Members of Youth Parliament (MYPs), Youth Councillors & Young Mayors to make a real change across each region throughout the UK. For my election, I had to prepare a one minute speech and answer whatever questions were thrown at me and the 11 other MYPs that were all standing in the election that would see one lucky Londoner speak from the same place as Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. After a tense finish to the day they announced the winner of the election that all the London MYPs had voted in- it was none other than the representative for the Royal Borough of Greenwich: David Hall. I would like to take this opportunity (without seeming too emotional) to thank all of the MYPs from London who voted for me- I hope I did you proud.
Fast forward two weeks and it was destination Parliament where everyone else from across the UK, who had gone through the same nerve wracking experience as me to stand at ‘the box’, came together to work on their speech with British Youth Council staff. Meeting such nice people who will remain friends for a very long time and seeing the development of their speeches was nearly as humbling as the day itself. I can honestly say that without the help of my peers and those who work for the British Youth Council, my speech would not have been as nearly as good as it was, so again I owe you a huge thank you.
Then came the 23rd November 2012: the most surreal day of my life to date. It all started with a seemingly endless train journey from the suburbs of South East London to place where over 300 young people would make history yet again- the only group of people apart from MPs themselves allowed to sit on the green chairs of the House of Commons. The speaker of the House, Rt Hon John Bercow was more than delighted to welcome the 15 speakers into his house for a pre-debate photo and some kind words of encouragement.
It was then time for the debates. Members of Youth Parliament took their seats and it was time for the topics that over 250,000 young people had voted for to be discussed by the young people who were all representing those who had voted them into their positions. After public transport, getting ready for work, equal marriage, the minimum wage and the curriculum were tried and tested for their viability and practicality to be the new UK Youth Parliament campaign for 2013, a first past the post vote decided that ‘a curriculum to prepare us for life’ would be the new campaign- I’m just glad it wasn’t getting ready for work (the motion that I was opposed to being the campaign). After the campaign was greeted by a chorus of cheers it was time for the House of Commons to return to normality for the MPs to take their seats on Monday morning. I can honestly say I am sure every single Member of Youth Parliament, whether they got to speak or not, thoroughly enjoyed the day and it is a memory that will stay with us all for the rest of our lives.
With no time to ponder on the days’ events, I was whisked off to the ITN studios for a live interview on London Tonight. After meeting MEP Claude Moraes who congratulated me on my speech, it was time for me to go live. I was actually more nervous doing this interview than I was delivering my speech, after all it was the first time I got to watch my speech back, and luckily it went off without a hitch.
It was then time for me to head home and to end the most surreal day of my life by taking the same train journey, which seemed a lot quicker this time, back to the suburbs of South East London where, reflecting on the day I just had, meant I didn’t get a lot of sleep, but it was so worth it.
Some people say that the young people of today are the forgotten generation, that we are not interested in politics and all we do is cause trouble- to them I ask: does a 250,000 young person wide consultation seem like we are not interested in politics? Does over 300 young people debating in the mother of all democracies seem like we are out to cause trouble? Does an event like that of Friday 23rd November 2012 make us seem like the forgotten generation? In the words of Callum Crozier, the speaker in favour of public transport becoming the UK Youth Parliament campaign “NO, NO, NO”.
By David Hall
MYP for Greenwich