Young people can’t do any worse, can they?

Guest Blog by Jack Mayorcas

It is no exaggeration to say that British politics is not in very good shape at the moment. The question of how, or even if, to leave the European Union has exposed divisions within both political parties, and the country more widely. Important domestic issues such as the National Health Service, Social Care, Knife Crime and many others have fallen by the wayside as Brexit dominates the news cycle and political agenda. The rhetoric coming from politicians is also cause for concern, with talk of ‘betrayal’ and ‘treason’ commonplace.

In the short-term what happens next is truly anyone’s guess, as both main parties face genuine challenges to the grip that they have held on politics for as long as anyone can remember. With this in mind, it has been truly inspiring to see the next generation take an entirely different approach to tackling the big issues. We have seen young people leading the way on the most important issue of our lifetime, climate change. The school strike movement, led by Greta Thunberg has forced the existential threat of climate breakdown back onto the agenda through colourful, peaceful and engaging methods of political engagement.

Much of the campaigning for a People’s Vote has also been led by young people, who feel as though a decision that will have a significant impact on their future was made without their say. It’s safe to say that based on the activism and optimism we see from young people, the future could well be bright. It’s important that young people are supported and encouraged to be involved in these ways, and feel able to speak out on the issues that affect them.

Photographs above: Kainaat Siddiqi, recently elected to represent Hounslow, with her deputy Fatima-Zahra Yusuf; Jack Mayorcas; Jack with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan

When I was young, encouraged by my mother, I became involved in local youth politics with the Hounslow Youth Council, and the Youth Opportunities Fund (YOF). The latter was a marvellous scheme in which young people could apply to the YOF for funding for a project they were running, whether it be a football team, a community garden, or educational courses. A panel of young people from across the borough would then go through the applications and allocate funding accordingly. Mentored by the fantastic Stephen Hutchinson, being involved in both of those organisations led to me stand successfully for the UK Youth Parliament as a representative of Hounslow, and later for London.

I am in no doubt that the skills I gained through involvement in the Youth Parliament and other youth organisations benefited me in both my professional and personal life. Public speaking, critical thinking, campaigning, project managing, and working closely with people from a huge range of backgrounds has helped me in a number of ways, not least in giving me a broader understanding of the challenges that people face in their childhoods. Having first worked in the events industry post-University, and now working in politics for a Member of Parliament I have undoubtedly drawn on the skills I mentioned above on numerous occasions. It also taught me that there are multiple ways in which to make your voice heard on the issues that matter to you.

People often say that young people are apathetic, or lazy – but my experience in the Youth Parliament couldn’t be further from the truth. I am still friends with many people I met in that organisation and they are all doing fantastic things; working in politics, working in radio and journalism, and even singing and song-writing. Sadly, due to the significant Government cuts to Local Councils, many of the opportunities for young people that I enjoyed are no longer available. We deny young people the opportunity to have their voices at our peril, and we know from the recent protests that they will find a way to do so regardless. So let’s champion the voices of the young, support the work of the Youth Parliament and other organisations, and encourage the young people in our lives to get involved in whatever way works for them.

Jack Mayorcas is Parliamentary assistant to MP Sharon Hodgson, and was formerly a member of the Youth Parliament

Tiffany Brown, the Programme Manager of Hounslow Youth Council, adds that if any young people from within the borough of Hounslow are interested in getting involved, she’d love you to join. You can find out more about it by emailing hounslow@participationpeople.com

Kainaat Siddiqi, from Heathland School, has just been elected as Member of the Youth Parliament for Hounslow, with Fatima-Zahra Yusuf, from Chiswick School as her deputy. Kainaat’s priorities are 1. Improve accessibility to Mental Health services, 2. Increase funding for Mental Health services and 3. Address Knife Crime through a Public Health approach. These issues resonated with young people across Hounslow (more than 9,000 young people voted for her) and they will now become the Youth Council’s priorities for the next year. To keep up to date with the MYP’s work and their progress follow Hounslow Youth Council on Twitter @LBHYouthCouncil and Instagram @HounslowYouthCouncil.