Sunday, May 11, 2008

UK Youth Parliament

A word of praise for Gordon Brown in what are bleak times for him. One of his first acts as Prime Minister was to allow the UK Youth Parliament to use the Palace of Westminster when MPs and Peers were not sitting. So at the beginning of this month the Youth Parliament held debates in the House of Lords chamber and last night some of these were shown on the Parliament Channel.

I intended to take only a quick look but ended up watching the entire programme. It was the best thing on TV last night and proved that Britain's Got Talent more convincingly than the programme of that name.

The debates were chaired by the real House of Lords Speaker, Baroness Hayman. She mostly managed to avoid being patronising but did at one point come out with the Joyce Grenfell-like exclamation "that's naughty!" Unfortunately, there was no close-up to reveal what youthful indiscretion was taking place, although one rather hopes that the next time Baroness Thatcher takes her place in the Lords she finds a piece of chewing gum adhering to her arse.

The Speaker reminded the MYPs that applauding speeches was not normal in Parliament and suggested they adopt the convention of growling 'Hear, hear!'.
The first time they did this, they erupted in laughter at the sound it produced. Then, after a short time, they ignored her instruction and reverted to applauding speakers.
Youth of Britain: 1 Old Farts: 0.

Will Britain ever produce its own Barack Obama? Well, if it does, there's a fair chance his name will be Acie Marshall.
This black youth from London stood at the despatch box and made a barnstorming speech on the environment. He received a long standing ovation from the entire House.
(Tony Blair was Prime Minister for ten years before the House of Commons, on his final day, broke with convention and gave him a standing ovation.)
Shortly after Acie's speech, another MYP stood up and said he was intending to speak against the motion but had changed his mind after hearing Acie's speech. Because Acie seemed such a consummate politician, I couldn't help wondering if this was a plant.

The environment debate was closed by the youngest MYP. I didn't record his name but he couldn't have been more than 10 or 11 and made a moving speech that included a swipe at the irrelevance of status and titles - in that particular arena, a bit like giving a reading from Richard Dawkins in Westminster Cathedral. When he concluded, Acie and his acolytes pinned him to the leather benches and fell on top of him as though he'd scored the winning goal in the FA Cup Final.

As always in such a forum, it was disturbing to listen to those who evoked memories of the teenage William Hague and who argued in favour of university fees. And it would be easy to sneer at those who looked stereotypically nerdish. But for the most part they looked and sounded like the kids who hang around outside your corner shop. Except that they were sitting in the Mother of Parliaments and speaking fluently and intelligently about education, transport and the environment.

Forty or fifty years ago this programme would have been shown on a main channel, not perhaps in peak-time but maybe on a Sunday afternoon. Buried on one of the least-watched minority channels, few will have seen it. And that's a pity because it wasn't just 'worthy' but hugely entertaining and a welcome antidote to the current demonisation of young people.

And remember this name: William Acie Marshall.
Charm, charisma, eloquence and, it has to be said, just a little bit scary.
Just promise me, Acie, that if you become our first black Prime Minister, you won't be a Conservative Prime Minister.


At 4:21 PM, Anonymous Jess Evans said...

His name is Acie William Marshall - Not William Acie Marshall =)
I was so grateful to be in the house of lords and will be an experience i never forget.

Jess Evans - Leicester.

At 8:38 PM, Blogger Vicus Scurra said...

Thank you for bringing that to my attention, alas I missed it.
I would, however, prefer that Thatch has plastic explosive up her arse rather than chewing gum.

At 9:44 PM, Blogger Semaphore said...

I've always believed that if people only listened to Da Yoof, then they'd be pleasantly surprised. Treat someone like a grown-up, like they're worthy of your attention, like they've got an opinion that should be heard, and nine times out of ten they'll reward your patience. Teenagers are passionate about issues - all sorts of issues - and I only wish people would listen...

I wish I'd seen this programme now.

At 8:20 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

jess: thanks for the correction. If I'd known I was going to write about it I would have made notes.
Glad you enjoyed the experience.

vicus: Since The Lady has a track record of evading explosives, I'll settle for the chewing gum.

semaphore: I totally agree.
This programme is available on the BBC iPlayer.
Go to Factual>>Politics>>Page 3.
Probably only accessible within the UK.
iPlayer also now available on Virgin Cable TV.

At 3:19 PM, Anonymous Adam Jogee MYP said...

haha- if Acie were to ever become a tory, I think we would have to kill him! He wouldnt do that to himself, or us- well hopefully! He gave a great speech, superbly represented the London Region and made all us Zimbabweans, here and back home truely proud! As the MYP for Haringey, it was a huge pleasure to be able to represent my constituents in the Chamber, we were certainly a force to be reckoned with!! Well done bro!!

At 5:03 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

adam, or may I call you 'bro'? (never had the chance to call anyone that before): thanks for your comments.
I'm reassured that Acie is unlikely to become a Tory. By all means kill him if he does!

I thought I was posting on something obscure but this post has had a lot of hits. I think being able to use the Lords chamber has raised the profile of the Youth Parliament and it's good that people can watch the programme on BBC iPlayer.

Look forward to seeing future debates and being represented by some of you, if I live that long.

At 6:54 PM, Blogger Acie Marshal said...

I just want to say this is a great pice you done bro, but no glory to me, London region done a lot of work and the co-ordinator Umar trained me so praise him. I'm just the insturment. Barak Obama, wow, You flatter me. Good piece

At 7:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even though I agree that it was a great speech, I am left wondering if the UK Youth Parliament really is an impartial organization.

As an MYP currently, and for the 2 years previous to this, I have always been told to be impartial even though I have political opinions. This article, however, along with some of the comments afterwards, suggests to me otherwise.

By looking at some of the previous comments, and perhaps even some of the article politicians will take a point of view that the UKYP is not impartial, and we may lose the respect we have gained over many years.

At 8:42 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Acie: good to hear from you and sorry I got your name the wrong way round.

I've done some public speaking and know how terrifying it can be. That's another reason I admired your speech and also the other MYPs who spoke. At your age I could never have spoken in that crowded chamber with TV cameras on me.

Your modesty is admirable but all the training in the world is no good if the tune is played on a duff instrument, so you must certainly take a lot of the credit.
Best wishes for the future.

(Now I've been called 'bro' by two members of the Youth Parliament I can die a happy man!!)

anon: I know little about the Youth Parliament but even if, as a body, it is meant to be impartial, many of its members are going to have party political affiliations. Watching some of the speakers, it wasn't hard to guess what party they would support, even if they don't stand for the Youth Parliament under a party label.

So far as this blog is concerned, I'm an old-fashioned socialist and my articles reflect that.
I hope that MYPs can post their personal opinions here without those opinions representing the view of the Youth Parliament.
If politicians really respect the Youth Parliament they will take its views on board and take seriously the campaigns it has voted for.
The televising of these debates will have done much to increase respect for the UKYP amongst the wider public.
Could I suggest that MYPs ask the BBC to repeat the programme on BBC1 or BBC2?

At 9:19 PM, Anonymous Asif, Peterborough said...

Hi, I saw the event whilst I was flicking through the channels and was very impressed with the speeches. Needless to say, Acie was brillent and really enjoyed his speech. If someone has the video, I suggest you put it on Youtube (Acie I am sure you have a video hidden away somewhere!) brillent...

At 8:33 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

asif: good idea. I was showing my age by suggesting BBC1 and 2 and overlooking YouTube.

At 7:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its a shame that only 3 out of 6 debates were shown on the channel.

At 7:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was an absolute privilege to be sitting in the chamber. I will admit towards the end of the session I was flagging due to some incoherent arguments and a lack of general "wow factor". It wasn't until Acie's speech that I felt really invigorated and engaged with the work that we as a Youth Parliament do to help improve the standing of young people in the United Kingdom. I didn't get a chance to congratulate Acie after the event, but I think you've said more than I ever could. With Obama's recent victory in the Democratic primaries the doors are wide open for Acie to take the lead.

At 8:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The young ukyp members name working with Acie who is 11, is Chandler Burns.

At 5:51 AM, Blogger Shawna said...

A very interesting blog, many places that I had never explored, and I take reference from your blog thanks



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