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HomeNewsMatthew Walsh: Teenagers in the Commons chamber, Hattie's silly T-shirt. Useless gesture politics...

Matthew Walsh: Teenagers in the Commons chamber, Hattie’s silly T-shirt. Useless gesture politics abounds


As I browsed the Sky News website on Friday, I came across a link to a live feed of the Youth Parliament in the House of Commons Chamber.

It reminded me of a debate back in 2009 over whether centuries of exclusive use of the Chamber for democratically elected MPs should come to an end by allowing the Youth Parliament to hold an event in there. At the time, Chris Chope MP put forward a sensible compromise amendment to allow the Youth Parliament access to the history-rich Committee Room 14 in the House of Commons instead of the Chamber. Chope quite rightly voiced his concerns that allowing the Youth Parliament access to the Chamber would set a precedent for a wide variety of organisations to hold events there.

Regrettably, MPs voted to allow the Youth Parliament access to the Chamber.

Those in favour argued it would engage young people in politics, seemingly overlooking the fact that members of the Youth Parliament are already engaged in politics and granting them access to the Chamber
will do little to engage those not currently engaged in politics.

It didn’t matter. It was a nice bit of tokenism ­ the Youth Parliament would sit on a Friday, MPs are back in their constituencies so no real harm is done and besides, it makes MPs look like they understand young people.

It is quick fix politics and unfortunately, while it is rife, it is pointless.

Take the simple act of sporting a T-shirt made by a poverty stricken grossly exploited Mauritian woman. It makes you a feminist and all for only £45.

Ed Miliband is a feminist, so is Nick Clegg. Hattie Harperson is the greatest feminist though because she wore hers to Prime Minister’s

It turns out that David Cameron isn’t a feminist because he chose not to wear a T-shirt made in a sweat-shop by a woman being paid 62p an hour. Shame on you Prime Minister.

Forget about the women who have changed the world as we know it through unimaginable struggle – Emmeline Pankhurst and Margaret Thatcher to name but two – no the greatest feminists are those who pose in a garment for a photo.

It isn’t just our politicians who are looking for a simple solution to the world’s problems.

The British public are keen enthusiasts for the online petition and the good old postcard campaign – two very popular methods of campaigning and two of the most futile.

99 per cent of those who sign a petition/postcard have little or no interest in  the cause for which they put their name. Crucially, the elected officials to whom the petition/postcard are sent understand that 99 per cent of the signatories have little or no interest in the cause for which they put their name and as a result discard 99 per cent of them.

By granting the Youth Parliament access to the Chamber, MPs are making themselves feel they are engaging with the youth (which they aren’t, ­ they aren’t even there when the youth are).

The feminist T-shirts make Hattie and Co feel like they are leading a female revolution (They aren’t. They actually looked quite silly in the photos and even sillier when it materialised they had inadvertently supported slave labour).

The petition/postcard campaigns make the public feel like they are changing the world as they know it (They aren’t ­ their email/postcard has already been binned/deleted).

Tokenism and quick-fix politics do not work. All they achieve is making an individual feel slightly better for a short space of time about their existence.

What it will always fail to do is achieve any real fundamental political change.

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Matt Walsh
Matt Walsh
Matt is Corporate Director at Media Intelligence Partners

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