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Future Parliament Programme helps students make the transition from apathy to advocacy

10 April 2024

Rwanda, school uniforms and trans issues were addressed by potential politicians of the future as they were given a glimpse into the day-to-day workload of a local MP.

Future parliament programme 1

Ten students who took part in the Future Parliament Programme also spoke on what they see as priority social issues including poverty, pensions and benefits.

Some of the students joined the project in support of their ambition to become an MP. Others found the experience useful as they explored other career opportunities in politics as a researcher, case worker ¬– and even the House of Commons speaker.

Hull West and Hessle MP Emma Hardy, who devised the project, said: “Everyone who was involved in organising and delivering Future Parliament was blown away by the progress which the young people made over just three days.

“They turned up on day one as ten individuals. Some had an early passion for politics and others just a curiosity. Some were looking for inspiration – with one admitting she didn’t think she would ever vote because she had never known her parents use their votes.

“But by the end of day three all ten had prepared speeches about live political issues. Eight read them out as we created our own chamber of the House of Commons. The other two took on the role of Parliamentary researchers and heard their speeches read out by others playing the part of MPs.

“By working as a team, conducting thorough research and studying videos of speaking techniques they organised their thoughts, assembled compelling arguments and developed the confidence which inspired them to make the move from apathy to advocacy.”

Ms Hardy worked with Hull College and the University of Hull to recruit people aged 16 to 19 from across her constituency for the series of briefings and workshops which included recreating Parliamentary debates, holding discussions with local authority leaders and being grilled by experienced journalists.

The main aim of the initiative was to raise awareness of politics among young people and build interest in a city which has delivered some of the lowest turnouts in the UK at general and local elections.

The “Turnout at elections” report in the House of Commons Library, published in 2023, document examines the 2019 general election and finds that across all 650 constituencies Hull North was 647th with a turnout of 52.2 per cent, Hull West and Hessle was 648th with 52.1 per cent and Hull East was last with 49.3 per cent.

Mihaela Constantin, a student at Hull College, said: “My ambition is to become a prosecution lawyer and I think this will help me because it is great experience and it will help to open some doors. I have become more interested in politics because of this and I wish we’d been able to do it for longer.”

Thayaparan Tharanikan, also from Hull College, added: “I want to study medicine and become a cardiologist and the experience of conducting research and giving my own speech in front of an audience has really helped me with my confidence.”

Cianan Sheekey, who is studying Politics, English Language and Geography at St Mary’s College in Hull, said: “I want to do a degree in politics and become an MP or pursue some other political role and this will help me make more links in the political sphere.

“When we started everyone in the group was really nervous, not knowing what to expect but they all enjoyed it and developed their ability.”

Professor Stephen Hardy, Dean of the Faculty of Business, Law and Politics at the University of Hull said: “The whole purpose of the project was for young people to understand how they are governed so they can engage more effectively with those who make the decisions that affect their lives.

“What this has shown is that young people do want to take part but sometimes they feel excluded. Once this small cohort found out how to engage, they flourished and grew not just because of the knowledge they gained but also the greater understanding and the skills they developed during their journey.”

Lynette Leith, Vice Principal of Hull College, told the students: “One thing that has really struck me is how powerful your voices are. You have embraced that learning and developed that thinking and those skills and you have really done yourselves proud.

“You have really contributed to this city and our country, how we think and how things look and feel in our lives. You have engaged in something that’s quite remarkable and done a brilliant job and I am genuinely proud.”