The UK Youth Parliament debates kicked off with John Bercow welcoming MYPs: “what an honour it is to preside over such a calm and orderly chamber”. There were initial statements from the leader of the House of Commons, Andrew Lansley and Shadow leader, Angela Eagle.
The MYPs oratory skills across the five issues displayed the same style and substance that is seen by their counterparts in the Commons. MYPs spoke eloquently and succinctly, which was praised by John Bercow and Children’s Minister Edward Timpson. Many of the speakers embodied the spirit and style of MPs such as Tony Blair and even Margaret Thatcher…. There were even references to Benjamin Disraeli’s One Nation, sure to be to the delight of Ed Miliband.
Jack McCann, MYP for Northern Ireland said he was inspired by Tony Blair’s gesticulation and David Cameron’s polished speaking ability, remarking that public speaking was not something that you are born with but something you must learn.
Serious issues were covered reflecting not only their interest but also a deeper understanding of topical political issues that belied their age. On the issue of marriage for all, MYPs raised the often overlooked issue of transgender rights and one MYP even said, “it is morally repugnant that sexual inclusion has been left behind while racial and gender inclusion has come so far.” Closing with a question for his peers, “are you an MYP of practicality or virtue?” In the end the issue that came on top with an overwhelming majority was the national curriculum for life, a testament to the passion of Sumaiya Karim’s speech in favour.
Reminding us of their ages, ranging from 12 to 18, the chamber was often excitable and at one point filled with a chorus of happy birthday. There were even references to One Direction and increasing price of chocolate bars. According to John Bercow, there were even some firsts in the chamber, when Jack Matthews said, “Mr Speaker, as someone who hasn’t even had his first proper snog yet, I’m not even sure I am qualified to talk about equal marriage.”
Speaking to Total Politics, John Bercow said “I am impressed by the passion with which the MYPs spoke [and] their wit and self deprecation at times….and the broad range of topics covered.” He thinks that MPs should take note of it. At the end of proceedings, the Speaker remarked, “if my parliamentary colleagues and I want to be respected by young people, we should show respect for young people.”
Edward Timpson MP, who was the present for the entire debate, described it as “a humbling experience that left me feeling inadequate [and] a real testament to the talent of young people."