Last night I attended the Youth Hustings event organised by the YMCA.
Firstly I’d like to congratulate Nicky Twemlow of the YMCA for organising such a great event for the young people of the city.
The night provided a few surprises, not least the amount of young people who actually turned up. There were far more youngsters there than I expected. In a city that’s supposed to be full of political apathy, these young people demonstrated passion, commitment and most of all, the need to carve out a bright future for themselves and the City.
The Panel consisted of the usual political suspects ““ Rob Flello MP (Labour), Norsheen Bhatti, Conservative PPC, Dr Zulfiqar Ali, current local Councillor and Lib Dem PPC, Matthew Wright representing the TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) and also a PPC, and Professor Mick Temple, who described himself as a “Political Scientist”. The notable absentee was Simon Darby of the BNP, who had the previous day confirmed his attendance but then didn’t show up. I’ll leave it to you to make your own mind up about that one, the young people certainly did.
The Panel were excellently chaired by Mike Sassi, Editor of the Sentinel, who kept the whole thing ticking over and kept the politicians in check, allowing plenty of time for questions from the students themselves. I have a sneaky feeling Mike actually enjoyed the whole event!
Question topics ranged from regeneration and boarded up houses, minimum wage jobs, Higher education tuition fees, public transport, job availability for young people, and even how to fill the leadership void in Stoke on Trent (a great question!)
The one thing that was annoying was the fact that all the politicians at some point turned it into a “party political broadcast”. You could feel the atmosphere in the room change, as the young people switched off. If only they could have kept to the point and engaged with the young people about what’s important to them, it would have been an even better event.
Two things really resonated with me. The first was a quote from Professor Temple, the “Political Scientist”, who said he “had no faith in the politicians who represent this city,” and “the third rate people who stand for councils”. After being pushed on this by Mike Sassi, Professor Temple then went on to say that the only hope for this City is for local, community minded people to stand as councillors, people who care about the community and the people within it, rather than party politics. He suggested local community activists against the BSF programme (Trentham, you know who you are!), would make ideal Independent councillors. I found this quite a shock coming from a political lecturer, advocating community politics instead of party politics. What do you think? Is the only way forward for Stoke on Trent ,to rid itself of party politics?
The second thing that really struck a chord was the amount of passion, drive, ambition and commitment some of the young people had. They want jobs, they want a future, they want to be proud of the city they live in and love. The evening ended with a rousing speech by Danny Flynn, Chief Executive of the YMCA, who told the young people to get out there in the community, volunteer, be part of something, and make a difference.
In the words of one young person, “we need to work together to make things better, if we stick together and have one voice, we can make change”. Not an exact quote, but you get the gist.
Well that sounds great, all we have to do now is get the Council to listen and it will all be fantastic!
I look forward to further Youth Hustings events, and congratulate the YMCA on a great job. I hope they organise this on a regular basis, to give more young people an opportunity to debate the things that matter to them.