First Among Equals

I take up my pen to write these few paragraphs before my previous installment is unleashed upon the famished beavers of the internet. But, with the benefit of careful preparation, I anticipate a pretty large chorus of fury directed against my aimless ramblings. With the UK Youth Parliament’s 2015 Parliamentary sitting coming to a television set near you, it might be worth finding out exactly which motions are set to be proposed. Accordingly, here they are.

Mental Health rose to prominence on the youth politics agenda recently, invigorated by a number of high-profile campaigns and news stories: it appears that this aspect of personal well-being has been downtrodden by the NHS, with adolescents bearing the brunt. To challenge this hidden menace, stereotypes could be confronted through education and services improved with the aid of young people themselves. Despite the sheer scale of the crisis, I fully support the UK Youth Parliament crusade to tackle Mental Health head-on.

The prospect of a Living Wage was a welcome feature of George Osborne’s most recent budget, one which will enable many more hardworking Britons to live comfortably and impose fewer demands on the Welfare State. But this new level of minimum earnings may still be inadequate, and it only applies to those for whom the threshold of adulthood is seven years in the past. So though I might dispute the precise level of this new lowest income for the gainfully employed, and feel that it should not be applicable in all circumstances, I agree that the Living Wage must take effect at an earlier age in the name of fairness and equality.

A Curriculum to Prepare Young People for Life is a cause of which I was a loyal supporter throughout my years in youth politics, and I rally behind that metatextural banner to this day. For too long, schools have peddled the agenda of endless examinations and tedious Citizenship Education without due care and attention for the aptitudes and abilities which truly matter. Finance, politics and employment should feature in a new, comprehensive curriculum of life skills to ensure that young people are sufficiently equipped for the trials and tribulations of modern society. Once again, I hope this issue finds favour in the Commons and forms the backbone of UK Youth Parliament activities in 2016.

Tackling Racism and Religious Discrimination, particularly against people who are Muslim or Jewish, is the somewhat convoluted title of the penultimate motion, and I feel troubled by the apparent focus on two faith groups rather than a broader spotlight under which all may be united. Furthermore, the absence of striking originality in subject matter may render any distinctive campaigning extremely difficult. Therefore, in spite of my support for the cause in general terms, I don’t feel it will translate into a suitably impactful topic for the UK Youth Parliament to cover. The final issue to be discussed is Transport, soon to be the subject of an exciting new movement in Tyne and Wear which I’ll discuss in a later article.

This balanced diet of themes will, most certainly, fuel an exceptionally productive year for my old teammates, and I’m positive they’ll pick the right ideas in the end. Be sure to tune in for a fantastic hour of political discussion!

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The Conservative Catch-22

In the wake of the silence which followed my commentary on the future Tory leadership, I decided I wouldn’t write a sequel to spell out my thoughts that bit more clearly. Here it is.

With the Conservatives reinvigorated by two successive terms in Government, it’s inevitable that some elements of the Parliamentary party will look to leave David Cameron’s mark on the country beyond 2020, much as Thatcherite backbenchers proved to be a persistent challenge for Honest John. But the Iron Lady wasn’t ever seen as replaceable; her fourth son most certainly is. While there wasn’t any clear successor in 1990, there’s definitely a viable contender in the next few years: George Gideon Oliver Osborne, our long-serving Chancellor who’s rapidly becoming the Brown to Cameron’s Blair. Perhaps he always has been.

Unfortunately, rather like the ill-fated heir to New Labour, Osborne lacks his compeer’s relaxed charisma or appeal to floating voters, an issue compounded what many view as decidedly right-wing sympathies. Even though his Dispatch Box performances have seen something of an improvement recently, he may well struggle when confronted with Corbyn’s calm, compassionate style. Most importantly, he’ll have to win an election before thinking about legacies or consolidation. And somehow, I doubt he’s the right man for that particular job.

Similar problems plague the foreseeable candidacies of Gove, May or Javid, who would almost certainly be able to run a whelk stall with perfect organisation and efficiency – but only if the town crier were paid a pretty substantial fee to draw in the punters. Certainly, the perception which asserts the contemporary Tory Party to be led by non-entities and ciphers for each other’s egos would hardly be alleviated by most of the potential leaders who spring to mind, however misguided the foundation.

Boris Johnson provides a welcome exception to this view, but another foul dust of sleaze and distrust floats in his wake. In many respects, he suffers from the opposite problem to that which Osborne is facing: voters might crack a smile when he appears on stage, but some wouldn’t trust him to run the country or thrive on the diplomatic circuit. To put it another way, Westerners will be wondering what their little world has come to when the blonde bombshells of President Trump and Prime Minister Johnson are sat side by side at an international peace summit. Marching into the conference hall to the Peter Gunn Theme, no doubt: the Conservative Chums, the Blue Brothers, Partners in Crime.

There’s just one certainty about the next few years in British politics: they’re uncertain. It’s the only certainty, really. And that, I can tell you, is for certain. But anyway, we live in interesting times, and there are quite a few people who might have a stab at power come 2020. A mirror image of Corbyn’s sudden ascent to prominence, perhaps. I can just imagine the day when Peter Bone is greeted by rapturous cheers at a special Conservative conference, ready to lead his party into the upcoming election and beyond. What a horrible thought…