bite the ballot

In the hallowed halls of westminster, the fate of the country rest in every decision, every meeting, every committee. Westminster isn’t just a place for writing laws, it is also a place where debate is encouraged and you can have your say, if you know where to go. The Houses of parliament are not the place go if you have no sense of direction, like me.

As I write this paragraph, I am sat outside committee room 2, waiting for some kind of sign to tell me that I am in the right place. I am meant to reporting on a cross-party committee hosted by Bite the Ballot, but how can I report on it, if no one is here. Mind you it doesn’t help my nerves if I am 45 minutes early.

I was first greeted by Mevan Babakar from Bite the Ballot, the rest of this paragraph is shaking hands I will skip straight to the start of the committee.

Barron Roger Roberts opened the committee by explaining how he has been involved Bite the Ballot since meeting its director Mike Sani in a coffee shop in Liverpool since just after the beginning of the campaign.

“The aim is to re-engage young people in politics, currently only 45% of of people are registered voters, Bite the Ballots campaign is great opportunity for young people to express their views. The main aim is sign up as many people as possible but the sad thing is many young people don’t know what a ballot paper is or the opportunities to vote.”

Barron Roberts went on to describe the Movement as a great opportunity for young people to sign up and that if we all work together we can ensure that we can bring about great changes.

Mike Sani echoed this statement and went on to say how it is great fun working with Barron Roberts as he such a character. Sani then opened the floor with the statement that only 12 % of 18-24 year olds questioned were sure that they wanted to vote. Sani then asked the MP’s in attendance, what difficulties they had engaging with young people?

One MP said that he felt that schools were reluctant to invite politicians in as they feel that MP’s will be bias towards their own party rather than teaching the children about politics. The opposite point was raised by a Welsh MP who said that MP’s and 16-18 year olds have to meet each other and talk about politics and being an MP

The discussion was moved by Barron Roberts to where can young people place their trust. Roberts said that he feels that there are very few corporations that young people can trust, and with both the expenses scandal and the Leveson enquiry, young people find it difficult to trust MP’s and the Media.

Mike Sani replied by showing that he understands the difficulties that Bite the Ballot face and what a difficult role it is when young people feel that they cannot trust politicians. He adds that the press doesn’t send a positive message and the Bite the Ballot want to give MP’s the tools to go and talk to schools.

Mike Sani also took this opportunity to highlight that Bite the Ballot has registered 4028 people to vote so far.

The committee then took a very different turn and one, that I will be honest I was not expecting. We played one of the games that Bite the Ballot play when they go into schools. The rules were simple, if you agree with the statement you stand on the right hand side of the room, if you disagree with the statement you stand left and if you are unsure you stand in the middle.

Statement one was about the Olympics, was it value for money? This split the room, into almost three semi-equal groups,those who agreed that the Olympics were value for money said that it was great for the economy, raised the spirit of the nation and created heroes. Those who disagreed said that we could have done it for much less and that it lost the magic of a amature compation that became more about the money and big business.

The second question posed was Should MP’s be recalled? This led to some discussion about how they should be recalled, it was stated that it could be very easy for a party to take down a MP on one single issue if it suits their needs. The question was then re-phrased to Should MP’s be recalled if they are corrupt, the vast majority agreed, but this sparked a discussion about when to recall an MP; Do we wait and see if they make amends or do you take them out at the first sign of trouble? The jury is out on that one

After we had taken back our seats, the discussion moved on the use of APPG’s (All-party parliamentary agreement) was discussed, this would mean at a set interval (every week, fortnight, month etc) members from all the major political parties would meet to discuss the events of the campaign, what was happening and what everyone has to do next. This was met with stale reception, while this would be an opportunity to engage with mp’s it was felt almost unanimously that there are now better ways to communicate with people and that APPG’s have run their course as attendance is appallingly low.

Mike Sani has suggested a formalised agreement between MP’s, he said that if we could get every MP to make one visit to a school every month over a year that would add up to 24,500 visits in a year. Another member of Bite the Ballot also took the opportunity to suggest that with regular debates that they should have a pool of people who are versed on a subject and are ready to speak a debate

To end the committee one MP used the case study of youth surgerys. He talked about how they hold a surgery on facebook with over 6000 friends and aim to answer questions within 3 minutes. Looking around at the other MP’s I could see them thinking ‘why didn’t I think of that’