This year was the second year running that I’ve had the honour of taking part in the UK Youth Parliament. I would like to start by congratulating the 307 Members who came down to Westminster for the UKYP’s annual sitting in the House of Commons Chamber. The quality of debate I heard was extremely high and there were even some theatrical moments! Whilst constituency commitments meant I had to leave after the first debate it looked like it was going as well as it had last year when I was able to stay for all of it. The topics which were debated in the session were all crucial issues facing young people, but perhaps more importantly it is excellent that over a quarter of a million young people across the country voted on them.
We live in a very cynical age. In my view that can only help those who are already rich and privileged. As I said in my opening remarks to the UKYP, "if you don't do politics you get it done to you." Yet more and more people I meet on the doorstep have lost faith in the power of politics to change things for the better. But watching the Commons chamber 10 days ago it was refreshing to see so many young people so engaged and passionate about the power of politics to achieve change. Over the next five years I believe that we will come closer than ever to lowering the voting age to 16 and I can see no better champions for that cause than the members of the UKYP.
In the Labour Party we are trying to do our bit to get more people engaged in our policy making process and make it more accessible. So last month we launched a new website www.yourbritain.org where anyone can go on and make policy suggestions or view and comment on other people’s ideas. I’d like to encourage you all to take a look at it and post your own ideas on their so we can help develop policy for young people that best represents their views.
Finally I’d like to wish you good luck for the New Year. You all have a big year of campaigning ahead of you, it will be a challenge, but I have no doubt that you will be able to have your calls for reform of the national curriculum heard at the heart of Whitehall.
I would also like to say good luck for all of those standing for election or re-election in the New Year. I look forward to seeing you all again for next year’s debate!
Angela Eagle MP
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons