This year’s Hackney Youth Parliament elections drew over 6,000 votes – twice the number cast in 2011. The vote was counted last night and EastLondonLines was there:
Clutching a plastic cup half-filled with juice, Dylan Ferner-Rose glances up at the clock. “I’m just excited really. I’m going to get in or I’m not – so there’s no point being nervous,” he explains with a level-headedness far in advance of his twelve years.
Set up in 2009 “to be the voice of and represent the views of young people in Hackney”, the 20 annually elected members have since drafted a constitution, conducted research projects on issues such as child poverty and taken Gordon Brown, Harriet Harman and Ed Balls to task on issues affecting young people in their community.
“This is exactly what we want to see,” remarks Councillor Jessica Webb, speaker for Hackney Council. “ In my role, I preside over citizenship ceremonies and we talk a lot about how we need to appreciate our rights and freedoms, which you just do not have around the world. And if we don’t involve our children in every part of the process, we lose that sense of engagement, so this is really great.”
Mariam Haji, 17, candidate for Stoke Newington is clear on what she wants to achieve – and the challenges facing her contemporaries. “I hope to bring more employment opportunities to young people. Things like the riots ruined our image and created a lot of negative stereotypes.”
Getting the voters out was a mean feat in itself. “I had to sacrifice a lot of time,” explains Florence Adeoye, 14, candidate for North Eastern. “I was tired, I had coursework to do and I had to go to speak to people because if they didn’t vote for me, there’d be no point being here.”
And why is she here? “I want to see the youths of Hackney have the bigger vision. I want them to understand that there are other things that they can do. There’s so much around them and so many things they can go for.”
As the clock strikes 5pm, the excited din subsides and the 37 candidates, flanked by beaming parents, are ushered into the council chamber of Hackney Town Hall to hear the results. Dylan receives 407 votes, Mariam gets 419, and Florence picks up 943 – gaining them each a seat.
“If you look at the manifesto, it’s absolutely wonderful,” Councillor Webb exclaims, leafing through a copy outside. “Maybe we’ll even be taking some ideas from it ourselves!”
By Oscar Quine