Esther Kirk, Year 13, shares her experience of visiting the House of Commons.

Getting the opportunity to debate in the House of Commons has always felt like a long shot, but here I am, officially a member of Hansard.

Since being elected as the Member of Youth Parliament (MYP) for Newcastle in February, all any MYP could talk about during our regional meetings was the House of Commons debate and what the experience would be like. It seemed surreal that over 250 young people aged 11-18 would be allowed into the Chamber to debate the top five issues that matter the most to young people from across the UK.

The big day finally arrived, 9th November, and the top five issues voted for by Make Your Mark were: Votes at 16, Let’s Tackle Homelessness, Mental Health, Equal Pay for Equal Work and Put an End to Knife Crime. Hearing young people truly impassioned by what they were debating for (and against) and having the wonderful Right Honourable John Bercow chair the event was an experience I will never forget.

During the day, key politicians dropped in to listen to the various debates, including Jeremy Corbyn who was present for the Knife Crime debate. Having such significant politicians come to hear what we had to say regarding pressing issues affecting the younger generations of today was truly memorable and I am so thankful that I have had the chance to be a part of such an important initiative.

I also had the opportunity to speak in the debate around the issue of Equal Pay and achieved 3rd place in the Newcastle Make Your Mark results. It was an amazing feeling to be accountable to my constituents and speak up for some of the issues that matter most to them. I was even compared to Mrs May by Bercow himself, so let’s just say I was a happy woman!

I am fortunate enough to be returning to the House of Commons next year in my role in the Procedures Group (PG). PG makes the decisions that guide the development of the organisation, and agree on the arrangements for each sitting.

It’s difficult to describe what it is like to be inside the Chamber itself but I couldn’t recommend the experience highly enough. The Youth Council and Youth Parliament elections are coming up soon in January and even if you aren’t interested in politics I would urge all girls to give it a go. I have grown so much as a person through my experience of being an MYP in Newcastle; in confidence, in ability to manage time and in sheer determination, amongst many other skills and traits. I have also met so many incredible people along the way, from across the country and our very own region. The North East may be small, but we are a mighty force to be reckoned with. Not only have we led the way in passing votes at 16 motions through local councils, we have created regional communication boards with Nexus to ensure that young people’s views about the high price of Metro tickets are heard. It feels great to be taking small steps to make a big difference for younger generations. Seeing the results after hours of time and dedication spent in attending all of the MYP meetings makes the experience so rewarding.

Visiting the House of Commons is just one of the exciting opportunities I have been presented with whilst involved in Council and Parliament over the past two years. I have flown to Japan in early October to the Newcastles of the World Conference, visited Newcastle in Switzerland and Neuchâtel to attend the conference of the Swiss Youth Parliaments. We begin planning for the next conference in Neuchâtel in 2020.

So, from one MYP to hopefully the next, while it is a big responsibility requiring a lot of work and dedication, the cause is much greater than an exciting trip to the House of Commons. Please believe me when I say it is the opportunity of a lifetime!

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