Tag Archives: uk youth parliament

Jeremy Browne writes… Why I voted against the UK Youth Parliament meeting in the Commons

Yesterday Lib Dem Voice highlighted the vote by MPs to allow the UK Youth Parliament to meet in the chamber of the House of Commons at a time when it’s not sitting. Jeremy Browne and Bob Russell were the two Lib Dem MPs to vote against. In this article for LDV Jeremy explains his position.

The vote on Monday was a free vote on House of Commons business and every Liberal Democrat MP was free to vote how he or she wished. Apart from the party spokesman, I was the only Liberal Democrat MP who attended the overwhelming majority of the debate. I had originally been minded to abstain, but the arguments made on Monday in favour of the Government’s position were so weak that I believed they were unworthy of even this lukewarm endorsement.

I also objected to the Government Chief Whip, on House business, walking into a debate that he had previously not attended, when MPs had been waiting hours for an opportunity to speak, and curtailing the discussion over an hour before it was scheduled to conclude.

As for the issue itself, during the division a Government whip was shouting “For the Youth Parliament that way; against the Youth Parliament that way”. This was a total caricature of the debate, but it is typical of the casual misrepresentation and authoritarianism that Labour also displays when it seeks to frame the decision over a universal DNA database or ID cards as being between those who oppose criminals and those who support them.

I am supportive of the Youth Parliament, and I am even more supportive of young people engaging in politics. It does seem, though, that the case made for this measure – that it will stimulate interest in politics amongst young people across the country – is rather optimistic.

My assessment is that young people are often disengaged for more complex reasons. They see MPs unwilling or unable to address the big issues of our time, such as climate change. They see a Prime Minister make a wholly misleading case in Parliament for going to war without any sanctions subsequently being taken against him. And I suspect that many are suspicious of the sub-Blairite, values-free, empathy-based, empty gesture politics which now also characterises the Conservative leadership and which was, ironically, perfectly exemplified by the motion being discussed.

My reservations about the Government motion were essentially two-fold.

At present, the situation is very clear-cut: everyone elected as an MP can participate in debates in the House of Commons chamber, and everyone who is not elected cannot. In its upholding of democracy, it is a very pure position, and I would be opposed to, for example, Lord Mandelson participating in House of Commons debates.

Now that principle has been breached, I cannot see any consistent case for preventing any group from using the House of Commons chamber for their deliberations. The Youth Parliament has a representative mandate of sorts, but then so does the General Synod, the Muslim Council of Great Britain and the Annual Meeting of the Women’s Institute. So, for that matter, do the executive of UKIP, and many other political groups that might make many MPs feel much more uncomfortable. If we decide to discriminate against them in the future, it will cause understandable resentment.

Anyone with these reservations, including me, is criticised by some people as being a “traditionalist” or “fuddy-duddy”. And I do not doubt that the same criticism would be made if objections were raised in future to television celebrities staging a one-off mock Parliament on Red Nose Day to raise funds for impoverished children in Africa. Who would now dare to object, and risk being aggressively branded as out-dated and out-of-touch?

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Also tagged | 10 Comments

MPs decide (eventually) to allow UK Youth Parliament to meet in Commons

The UK Youth Parliament will be allowed to hold a meeting in the House of Commons following overwhelming approval from MPs – after a two-hour long debate. The BBC reports:

The move, which was resisted by a handful of Conservative MPs, will see the chamber being used by non-elected parliamentarians for the first time. Opponents said the Commons would abandon its traditions by agreeing, and set a precedent for other groups.

The Youth Parliament, whose 500 members are aged between 11 and 18, is expected to convene over the summer recess. This summer’s meeting will be a one-off event after

Posted in News and Parliament | Also tagged , and | 12 Comments

Recent Comments

  • Gordon
    Katharine rightly highlights the plight of the worst off. Something must indeed be done but if it stops there, I fear it will prove to be merely rearranging th...
  • George Thomas
    So that's Bradford (a massive city ignored by HS2), Wales (losing out on estimated £5 billion pounds by it being called and England and Wales project) and now ...
  • Joe Bourke
    Public spending will need to increase at least in line with inflation but this will not provide for improved services or benefits. To increase the level of pub...
  • Joe Bourke
    The above OBR forecasts expect a deficit of 5.1% of GDP. To increase public spending requires either idle resources that can be brought into use or competing wi...
  • Robin AG Bennett
    Will the City of Edinburgh Council be up to the task of enforcing the new law? Landlords who have responsibly sought planning permission for short term lets ha...