Young people take the personalities out of politics

UK Youth Parliament ran anonymous election campaigns

Newly-elected Member of the Youth Parliament, Sara Habachi, 17, from Lady Margaret School, in Fulham, and deputy MYP Yussif Osman, 14, from Henry Compton School, in Fulham.
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Young people from Hammersmith & Fulham have been voting for local candidates for the UK Youth Parliament – who ran anonymous election campaigns.

Six unnamed candidates aged 14 to 17 were asked to draw up manifestos, which were circulated to other young people at local schools, colleges, youth and community groups. The aim was to get young people to vote on issues and the strength of the candidates’ arguments rather than their personalities or appearance.

Although deprived of modern campaigning techniques, the young candidates and voters put all their energy and enthusiasm into the election – the first of its kind in the borough. An amazing 1,319 young people voted – 13 per cent of the electorate (all 11 to 18-year-olds who live or go to school in the borough – a total of about 10,000).

The results of the ballot and the two winning candidates were announced at the Kingwood City Learning Centre, in Fulham, on Friday (28 January). The elections were organised by the council’s youth service and the participants.

Sara Habachi, 17, a student at Lady Margaret School, in Fulham, who also lives in Fulham, was elected Member of the Youth Parliament (MYP) for the borough. Sara polled nearly a third of the votes (29.8 per cent). Yussif Osman, 14, a pupil at Henry Compton School, in Fulham, who lives in Hammersmith, was elected deputy MYP with 20.4 per cent of the votes.

The UK Youth Parliament aims to give 11 to 18-year-olds a voice on issues and services at local and national level. It is run as an independent charity and has an annual national sitting as well as regular regional sittings (once a month in London).

The Hammersmith & Fulham MYPs will be supported by a Borough Youth Forum, made up of about 20 members. The forum is being set up by the youth service to give young people a say on local services. MYPs and youth forum members will work towards gaining nationally recognised Youth Achievement Awards and will be given expenses for attending meetings, training and other activities.

The borough’s newly-elected MYP, Sara Habachi, said: “I am really looking forward to working with my deputy and everyone on the Borough Youth Forum. The image of typical youths in people’s minds today is negative and I wish to correct that. As a student in Hammersmith & Fulham and also a resident, I vehemently care about how it is governed.” More…(PHOTO)
Sara campaigned anonymously as ‘Candidate 6’ on issues including training student counsellors in every school to help beat bullying; holding more inter-school sports events at Hurlingham Park and putting more pedestrian crossings near schools and parks. Sara, who is studying politics AS-level in the lower sixth at Lady Margaret, believes political education should begin at age 12, especially if the voting age is reduced to 16. She also wants to increase awareness of environmental issues and the plight of refugees.

Cllr David Williams, deputy for education, said: “We are always looking for ways to engage young people and enable them to make their voices heard. The UK Youth Parliament and Borough Youth Forum will provide that important opportunity. The young people who took part in these elections have had a chance to think about what issues matter most to them and have learned a great deal about the political process as well as improving their confidence and communication skills.”

Among the guests attending Friday’s announcement of the UKYP election results were Cllr Williams; Sandy Adamson, the council’s director of education; Andrew Christie, director of the Hammersmith & Fulham Children’s Trust, and senior youth officers from the council’s education department.

February 6, 2005