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Earlier this month, on the 9th of November hundreds of Members of Youth Parliament, like myself, from across the country came together and debated at the house of commons. The debate was centered around which two topics out of five should be prioritized by the British Youth Parliament. Those five being Putting an end to Knife crime, Improving Mental Health services, achieving Equal Pay for Equal Work, Tackling Homelessness, and acquiring Votes at 16.
The debate itself was as intense, as inspiring, and as heartfelt as it has always been since the commons sittings first started in 2009 but two things made this year one of the most important ever.
Firstly, before the commons sittings every year MYP’s give the young people across the United Kingdom the ability to vote on the issue they find most important out of ten issues – with the top five being those taken to Westminster. Creating a curriculum for life, ending period poverty, supporting youth services, welcoming refugees, and improving transport were those other topics which went to schools and clubs from Dundee to Devon. Fantastically, for the first time ever the Make Your Mark count went over the one million votes mark with 1,106,788 (That’s 1 in 5) young people between 11 and 18 making their choices of what the youth parliament and government overall can do to improve the lives of young people. This meant that, whilst sitting in the same leather seats which had previously been occupied by prime ministers and members of parliament who had passed revolutionary legislation, our members of youth parliament were empowered with a mandate from the UK’s youth.
In Lambeth we had over 2000 young people taking part in the vote. Our results are as followed,
5th with 161 votes; Mental Health Awareness
4th with 181 votes; Homelessness
3rd with 221 votes; Equal Pay for Equal Work
2nd with 238 votes; Curriculum for Life
1st place with a staggering 762 votes; End Knife Crime
Secondly, because of this mandate given to our MYP’s and because of the knowledge of MYP’s granted by the virtues of youth, young people are finally being listed to on issues which affect young people. Quite crucially we are listened to in regards to knife crime. Tackling knife crime received the most amount of votes shared between the ten topics with a count of 196,897, this section of the debate was dominated by the impassioned views of quite outraged young people seeking change and seeking representation. This was heard by influential members of parliament such as Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom and,yes, Leader of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn.
London and London MYP’s have been the vanguard of this conversation on knife crime both inside and outside of the commons. MYP for Camden, Athian, went from making quite a brilliant speech in the Commons to speaking on ITV News about what can be done to tackle knife crime. Member of Youth Parliament for Lewisham, Vicky Foxcroft, since the 9th has repeatedly used the MYP’s debate to show the need for a debate amongst MP’s on how to combat knife crime and most incredibly MYP’s from across london have been consulting MP’s on the Youth Violence Commision report. All thanks to the existence of Make Your Mark, empowering young people to make a difference.
Now it’s over and combatting knife crime and acquiring votes at 16 have been voted as the top two priorities of MYP’s, it’s time for us, that’s not just MYP’s but the community overall, to work towards change in these areas. To tackle the violence on our streets and improve youth participation in democracy. As the months go by they’ll be more to report back from the results of the event but as the day ended on the 9th every single MYP’s returned to their hometowns and began planning for the next year and what we can do to make our mark.
Written by Jamal Simon, MYP (17)