On Friday 31st July 2015 over 300 Members of Youth Parliament from every corner of the UK met in Exeter for the UK Youth Parliament’s 15th Annual Sitting weekend to debate fresh policies and campaigns for the coming year. This mobile sitting is one of a number of ways the next generation and pioneering a new ways to do ‘democracy’. There are no political parties, or adversarial opposition, but everyone has an independent vote and the emphasis is on persuasion, consensus and researched arguments. Even then – the top ten issues are put to the public in the largest referendum of youth views in the UK – Make Your Mark which this year will target a million teenagers.
John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, opened the Parliament, which took place at the University of Exeter. Followed by speeches from John Chatterton, Co-founder and Executive Director of Campaign Bootcamp and Siân James an activist and former politician from Wales.
“Votes at 16” gained momentum during the weekend following debates on new policy such as lowering the voting age in the EU referendum, a ‘living wage’, education on sexuality, gender equality and much more.
Mita Desai, Chair, British Youth Council said: “The UK Youth Parliament’s Annual Sitting is a key date in the calendar of any Member of Youth Parliament; it’s their opportunity to influence the organisations position on topical issues like the living wage. The time they’ve taken out of their schedule to develop new skills and debate amongst others is just one example of the positive social action young people are involved in”
James Cathcart, Chief Executive, British Youth Council said: “This is one of the most diverse and representative Parliaments in its young history, with equal representation of young women and men; with 1 in 4 from BME communities, and a variety of faiths. A frequent myth is that these young people are the usual suspects and politics students – but they are more likely to be the most passionate about issues and also have had to be elected by their peers, live in their communities, go to local schools, and often facing the very issues and challenges – that they are campaigning about.”
Rachel Wibberley, Procedures Group representative for East Midlands, with responsibility for supporting the organisation of the event, said: “The Annual Sitting was a truly unforgettable experience! From start to finish there was never a dull moment! This year’s event was based around productive campaigning and Make Your Mark campaign which is due to launch soon. The speakers were so inspiring and offered a real insight into what campaigning is like, particularly our guest speaker Johnny Chatterton who amazed and motivated us all with his campaigns.”