Ex-Member of Youth Parliament for Kent, Ben Stanley, exclusively tells The Speaker all about his experiences and explains the process of becoming a member:
During my time as a Member of Youth Parliament (MYP), I was presented with some truly amazing opportunities, including being able to meet some of the country’s most influential politicians, as well as the chance to sit in the home of British democracy: The House of Commons!
When I was elected to the role of a MYP in February 2017, I was chosen on my policy of ‘giving a greater voice to the young people of Kent and to the wider United Kingdom’.
I set out on this daunting task knowing it would not be easy to achieve in just a year, and I knew I could not do it on my own. I had to work with fellow MYPs in Kent as well as setting up links with MYPs and Youth Councils elsewhere in the UK. The goal I set for my one-year term was to get a bigger voice for young people in local regeneration projects and housing developments. To be able to achieve this I had to get the idea adopted by the youth parliament in the annual sitting at Liverpool Hope University. However, before reaching this stage, I realised I would have to form vital links with other MYPs.
My first encounter with other MYPs was at the first residential in Ashford where we particularly focused on campaigning techniques and tips for lobbying MPs. This residential enabled me to gain very important skills, which I continued to call upon during my time as a MYP. I used my newly learnt skills to make what can only be described as the most nerve-racking speech of my life; speaking to hundreds of MYPs about my motion at the Youth Parliament sitting. Thankfully my motion was passed following a five-minute debate on the issue and it was put onto the UK Youth Parliament (UKYP) manifesto.
The annual UKYP sitting is arguably one of the most productive and enjoyable of all of the UKYP events, (and it must be mentioned the food was amazing!) The event gives you a chance to listen to the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, in action as well as offering a Q&A with a number of MPs. Most importantly in this sitting, you begin to put your own ideas (which you stood for during the election process) into action. The sitting is always held at the very start of Parliament Week and is the very best moment of the UKYP calendar. We began to promote the event straight away; when we arrived at parliament we were photographed holding a parliament week sign, which was soon shared on social media to spread the word!
Finally, the moment had arrived where we were going to get the chance to sit in the same chamber as some of the greats of British politics! Once the whole parliament was settled in the chamber we began the first debate which on this occasion was on LGBT rights. In the morning sitting we debated three topics and, in the afternoon, sitting we debated two further topics, followed by a vote to decide which two Youth Parliament wished to campaign on the following year. On top of the debates and vote, we also listened to speeches from the Leader and Shadow Leader of the House as well as the Education Secretary.
Overall, being a member of Youth Parliament was probably one of the best experiences of my life and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in making change and getting their voice heard.