Page last updated at 17:54 GMT, Friday, 29 October 2010 18:54 UK

Youth Parliament speaks from the heart

Speaker John Bercow addresses the UK Youth Parliament in the House of Commons
More than 300 members of the UK Youth Parliament travelled to the House of Commons for the debates

By Phil Harlow
BBC News at the House of Commons

"A new politics" was a phrase we became rather familiar with during the most recent election campaign, although many would be hard pressed to define what it meant.

But the arrival of more than 300 11 to 18-year-olds for the UK Youth Parliament on 29 October was arguably the closest we've seen to it since... well, since this time last year when they made their House of Commons debut.

Predictable political point-scoring was virtually non-existent while polite and warm applause was a constant as the Commons opened its doors to non-MPs for only the second time in its history.

The excitement was clear even in the lengthy queue to get in to the building.

"I'm a little bit nervous because the world's media are going to be watching, but I'm very excited," Joseph Hayat, a MYP for Lincolnshire West told the BBC News School Report team.

"It provides a fantastic opportunity for young people to get their voices heard and I'm chuffed to bits."

And once through the airport-style security and into Westminster Hall, the MYPs were treated to a welcome speech from Speaker John Bercow, a keen supporter of bringing the Youth Parliament to the seat of government.


Sex education is not a condom - one size does not fit all

MYP at the House of Commons

Anyone expecting an extended school debating society session was in for a rude awakening. The standard of debate was high, with finely crafted speeches to be heard throughout all five half-hour debates.

Topics covered included sex education, tuition fees, the school leaving age, the war in Afghanistan and transport fares for young people and all were treated with remarkable sensitivity and thought by the youngsters.

Aware that the whole event was being captured by the BBC Parliament cameras and being reported on by the watching media, soundbites, that essential political skill for the modern age, were also on show.

"Sex education is not a condom - one size does not fit all," said one MYP, while another talked of the need to end youngsters' reliance on "Google and gossip" for their information on the issue.

Speeches in Welsh and Gaelic also punctuated proceedings, while Mr Bercow was at pains to stress the lessons that the more well-known parliament could learn from its youthful equivalent.

"I have always been struck by the fact that 50% of you or thereabouts are female, approximately 20% of you are from black and minority ethnic communities and approximately 10% of you have some form of disability," said Mr Bercow.

"So in terms of representing the kaleidoscope of modern society the UK Youth Parliament does it very impressively and does it in a way from which the elected House of Commons itself can learn."

And the House of Commons should not stop at merely trying to imitate the Youth Parliament's inclusivity: lessons of listening to other people and speaking from the heart could also be a step in the right direction.



SEE ALSO
UK Youth Parliament makes its mark
29 Oct 10 |  Student reports
'Teen MPs' demand tuition fee cap
01 Nov 10 |  UK Politics
The old go free, what about me?
30 Oct 09 |  School Report
Making history in Parliament
30 Oct 09 |  School Report

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