Encouraging young people to engage in politics
Both events were in the Parliament Week Diary and were hosted by Professor, the Lord Laird of Artigarvan in the House of Lords. Each had a similar format - an introduction from a Member of Parliament on how the House of Commons works and how the House of Lords works from a Peer. This was followed by the audience dividing into break-out groups to talk to and challenge either one of the MPs or Peers present. The Rt Hon Tom Brake MP, Deputy Leader of the House of Commons and Siobhain McDonagh MP were our speakers on behalf of the Commons. Lord Ahmed of Rotherham and Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall spoke about the Lords. Baroness Uddin and Fiona O'Donnell MP also joined us, as well as Mr Srdjan Smiljanic, Deputy Secretary General of the Serbian National Assembly and his colleagues, Mrs Irena Vlatkovic from the Legislative Department and Jovana Ðurbabić from the Communications Department
On 18 November, the group (of about 70 participants) was drawn from a wider mix of 18 to 24 year olds from:
- Young people from Tower Hamlets in East London;
- Sea Cadets;
- Girl Guides;
- Sports Trust;
- Abmadiyya Muslim Community;
- Police Cadets; and
On 19 November, the group (again of about 70 participants) was made up of young women (aged 12-14) from the Muslim community and Girl Guides in the South East of England. After talking with an MP or Peer, there was a debate on whether young people should be allowed to vote at the age of 16. The conclusion was a surprising 'no' - the audience believing that they were not well enough informed to make such important decisions.
Baroness Uddin spoke in Parliament on the "UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: Digital Impact — Motion to Take Note" which was reported in Hansard (20 November 2014, c594). She commented that, "... Police forces in England and Wales have recorded children as young as 11 years old reporting that they have been unwilling subjects of revenge porn. Such victims deserve recourse to the law and civil as well as legal remedies. When I was with a group of Metropolitan Police cadets from Southwark as well as Navy cadets and Girl Guides only a couple of days ago, they told me that not enough is being done to caution young people and counter these online acts. I am glad to hear of the progress reported by the noble Baroness, Lady Shields, and that Governments and regulators are to work together to clamp down on the sites that host this pernicious material ..."
There was also considerable positive feedback from the participants and their organisations, including one comment from one of the 'leaders', "I have been on a small, yet important political journey myself since our visit to the House of Lords. I came along believing that it was up to the politicians to reach out to voters to provide information in making there decisions. I've since had a 'U-Turn'. Lord Laird made a significant impression on my personal goals, perhaps awakening my inner beast again, which has been snoozing for sometime. I do hope that the [Police] Cadets took as much as I from the experience.