Note from the Editor,
Thank you so much to everyone who attended the conference on Saturday 3rd March. We were completely tacken aback by the amazing turnout, despite the snow, in addition to the levels of engagement on show. A huge thank you to all of our workshop leads, campaigns and speakers, including our keynote speakers Alastair Campbell and Andy Burnham. Also a huge thank you and congratulations also, to the rest of the YouthPolitics team, especially Ben Fleming, James Sullivan-Mchale and the conference committee for all of their hard work and dedication, which made the day possible.
The organisation and conference attracted lots of a press due to our work. This link will take you to an article written by Mancunian Matters, who captured the essence of what we are trying to achieve perfectly.
Myself and the YouthPolitics team thoroughly hope that you enjoyed the day and will stay posted for any future events. Below is an article written by Manchester University student, Bella Jewell about the conference. We have got so many exciting things coming up and we’re so excited for the future.
The journey has only just begun,
YouthPolitics UK Launch Conference
By Isabella Jewell
“Happiness is not about the moment, but what you do and achieve over time” were the wise words of the final key note speaker, Alastair Campbell. This final address captured the essence of the dynamic YouthPolitics UK Launch Conference: that of creating change through activism, campaigning, and positive debate.
The daylong event at Manchester Grammar School was made up of a detailed schedule of poetry, workshops, debates, and speeches, commencing with an opening speech from the YouthPolitics UK founder and editor, Dan Lawes. After outlining the key aims of the organisation, and the upcoming events of the conference, Dan handed over to Alice Spencer, who kick-started the day with an impressive poetic performance, highlighting the important role that the arts hold in activism.
What followed were a variety of workshops which focused on advocacy, a central aspect of YouthPolitics UK. These workshops ran alongside the YP campaigns fair, which featured GreenPeace and the Women’s equality party among others. Sarah Vickers ran an informative workshop centred around debating called ‘Getting your voice heard’, whilst in other rooms the formidable Mary Gibb from Amnesty International, and the advocate Clare Workman led empowering workshops focused on activism, and fighting for greater protection of human rights.
The most popular workshop, however, was the ever-relevant Brexit debate chaired by the BBC broadcast journalist Raph Sheridan. Fighting the corner for Brexit was Oliver Kingsley, an ex-Manchester Grammar pupil and former intern at Conservative HQ, and the gutsy sixth form student James Welch. On the opposite side of the table was the Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, and former MEP, Afzal Khan. To mediate this clash of rhetoric, however, was Matthias Klaes, an Economist from Buckingham University, whose role was to provide ‘unspun’ factual analysis of the economic implications of Brexit. The debate provided yet another insight to the main issues which dominated the Brexit campaigns: the impact Brexit will have on immigration and the economy.
The next speaker in the star-studded line up was Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester. Amongst the range of issues covered in his address, what stood out was his will for greater devolution from Westminster, so to give the North more control over their own issues which is often overlooked by Westminster. He then went on to discuss the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, in particular the Youth division. His speech focused on empowering young people, exclaiming “go out and change the world”: a message which continued to ring in the ears of the young and politically engaged attendees for the rest of the afternoon.
The final item before lunch was a Q and A session with another ex-Manchester Grammar student, Michael Crick. As a founding member of Channel 4 news, a BBC journalist, and most recently as a Political correspondent for Channel 4 News, Crick’s list of achievements appears even longer than the list of UKIP leaders since 2016! On stage he was Interviewed by the Deputy Head of Events at YPUK, Sarmed. The confident speaker informed the audience about the journey into a journalistic career, and how to navigate it successfully given the high level of competition. Overall, it was an informative ending to the packed morning of the YPUK Conference.
Following lunch, the afternoon session commenced with a talk by James Cathcart, the former CEO of the British Youth Council. His speech focused on the importance of youth engagement in politics, claiming that we should all seek to ‘make [our] mark’ if we want to pursue change. Carhart discussed how he has worked with YouthPolitics UK, providing expert help to guide the organisation going forward. On this note, the audience filed through into the next round of workshops which, in addition to another round of the ones already mentioned, included a workshop titled ‘Northern Concerns’.
In the theatre a large audience settled down to watch the ‘Northern Concerns’ debate chaired by the journalist, Patrick Christys. The members of the debate, Kate Green, Sean Anstee and Laura Evans, represented a range of political stances and priorities, ranging from devolution, to HS2, to Brexit. Whilst differing on some issues, such as the necessity of increasing devolved powers (which Anstee labelled “a waste of time”) they were united in the opinion that the North is a powerhouse which is often underrepresented in Westminster.
Despite the recent polarisation of political debate, Anstee described how the devolved committees have become “too political” and that “if you want to use politics for the force it can be, we ought to be mature” and unite behind fixing current: a positive note that rang true with a youth growing up in the middle of an ineffective ideological fist-fight.
Finally, the moment we had all been waiting for: a talk from the political celebrity, and famously uncouth Alastair Campbell. After an introduction from Dan Lawes, Campbell recounted his proudest political moments namely working on the peace process in Northern Ireland, on Gay Rights, and the banning of smoking in public areas. In conversation with Lawes, Campbell recounted his struggles with mental health, an issue that he is very vocal about, and his disdain of the current Government and Brexit (an issue we couldn’t seem to escape!).
In a typically straight-talking manner, he described how May “hasn’t got the imagination to deliver” on Brexit, whilst the “blatant liar and charlatan”, Boris Johnson, and his “clan” merely act as an argument for remaining in the EU. He then moved on to discuss the issue of votes for 16 and 17-year olds, a cause which he greatly supports, claiming that the Scottish Referendum was a key example of the policy’s success. In keeping with the sentiment of the organisation, he described how the youth must become engaged, as the future needs “the brightest and best” in politics.
On a lighter note, Paul Fletcher MBE joined Campbell on stage to promote their new book, ‘Saturday Bloody Saturday’, a thriller recounting the dramatic events of February 1974 when political dissent and football coincide: an “excellent gift for mothers’ day”, Campbell dryly remarked.
The conference was drawn to a close with a powerful speech from the founder of YPUK, Dan Lawes, who thanked all those who had helped him establish the organisation, and organise the impressive first conference. His speech was a call to arms to the “young snowflake generation”, who are often dismissed, yet, he claimed, can cause a Nation-halting blizzard when united.
After an exhausting yet deeply inspiring day, no one can deny that young people are not politically engaged. YPUK is working to change that perception, so that we, young people, can have the power to change our future for the better.