A city which has all three of its Parliamentary constituencies in the bottom four of the national league table for general election voter turnout has launched a project aimed at raising political awareness and interest among young people.
The Future Parliament has been devised by leaders from politics and education in Hull and will invite people aged between 16 and 19 to consider pursuing Parliamentary roles from processing paperwork to serving as Prime Minister.
Emma Hardy, the MP for Hull West and Hessle, said: “Not everybody in Hull has a relation who is in the House of Commons, or went to the same school as the Prime Minister, or has other personal connections.
“Future Parliament is about giving them the same opportunities as the young people who have those personal connections so they have the chance if they are interested and it’s something they want to do. The aim is to help them fulfil their potential and to do something about the terrible voter turnout figures in our city.”
Ms Hardy will be joined in leading the project by Debra Gray MBE, Principal and CEO of Hull College, and Professor Stephen Hardy, Dean of the Faculty of Business, Law and Politics at the University of Hull.
Part of their motivation is the “Turn out at elections” report in the House of Commons Library. Published in 2023, the document examines the 2019 general election and finds that across all 650 constituencies Hull North was 647th with a turnout of 52.2 per cent, Hull West and Hessle was 648th with 52.1 per cent and Hull East was last with 49.3 per cent.
Average turnout in the UK was 67.3 per cent. The top three were East Dunbartonshire with 80.3 per cent, Richmond Park in London with 78.7 per cent and Rushcliffe in the East Midlands with 78.5 per cent. Sheffield Hallam, ranked fourth with 78.2 per cent, was the only Yorkshire constituency to feature in the top 10.
The Hull constituencies also showed low levels of engagement in the 2023 local elections with nine wards recording a turnout in the teens and one dropping to 11.67 per cent.
Ms Hardy said: “Such figures demonstrate clear and serious implications for our democracy and although I have to restrict my work on Future Parliament to my own constituency the hope is that the programme will inspire young people in other areas of Hull and much further afield.”
The project leaders will reach out through schools, colleges and other organisations to invite people to apply for a place on a three-day programme which will deliver insight into the role of an MP, the role of the Speaker and the workings of local government.
Successful candidates will learn how to deliver a speech, they will receive guidance from experienced media professionals and they will meet Matt Jukes, the CEO of Hull City Council, Mike Ross, Lib Dem leader of the Council, and Daren Hale, Labour leader of the opposition.
Young people interested in taking part in Future Parliament can find out more details and apply online at https://bit.ly/3Uqi6OD
The closing date for applications is Friday March 1st. Shortlisting and interviews will take place during March and the programme will be delivered from April 3rd – 5th at Hull Guildhall, Hull College, the University of Hull and the C4DI digital hub. Transport costs will be covered and lunch will be provided.
Professor Hardy said: “Both the college and the University are educational institutions as well as anchor civic institutions. We are not just about lifelong learning, but also about developing our future leaders. Parliament should be no exception and there should be no barriers to that.”
Ms Gray said: “Our young people don’t always know a great deal about politics and they don’t always understand how political decisions directly affect their lives.
“We are really proud to work in partnership with the University colleagues and with our MP, Emma Hardy, and her team to develop their skills. We want the young people in Hull to have access to every opportunity that they want to take up, including those in politics.
“If they haven’t been to a private school or had a privileged lifestyle they may be less likely to understand the options available to them and we can change that with projects like this.”