Friday November 25th 2016 – not an ordinary day when waking up at 2:30am in excitement and not being able to get back to sleep, just for another hour and a half or so…
And this not-so0ordinary day occurred within the most famous building in land, and one of the most well-known on the planet: The Palace of Westminster. The 2016 House of Lords Chamber Event had arrived and even though I’d managed to speak within 2015’s proceedings, I was as hyped and thrilled to be off down to the debate for a 2nd year running – representing the excellent organisation of 38 Degrees.
Firstly however, and in a slight twist before heading to Westminster itself and within the excitement of arriving at London Kings Cross after departing Sheffield at a brutal 05:46 - to head to Retford before finally switching onto the 07:01 departure from the Nottinghamshire station via the East Coast Mainline, I decided to do something non-political for a moment: that being a snap in front of the iconic Platform 9 ¾ sign. Who wouldn’t want to relive being a younger kid for a moment though…
Once inside Parliament after a Tube trip to Green Park and a great walk past Buckingham Palace and other sights and sounds in and around Victoria, I wanted to make a day of it so the 1st port of call was the Commons public gallery. Strangely they were sitting on a Friday and gave me no other choice as a future employee of the place to see some debate in action. It would have been nice to of seen more topics than the Awards for Valour (Protection) Bill being discussed, but nothing ever gets through Parliament that quickly!
At around 11:30, it was time to head off to the Lords and via Black Rod’s Garden Entrance – once inside the main base was the Peers Dining Room and once most delegates had arrived, a swing of activities kicked off, beginning with a lovely speech by Lord Speaker himself, Lord Fowler; stating that Westminster is “Your Parliament and Your Democracy”. After a Tour of the Lords, a top lunch yet again and a pre-debate briefing by a rep from English Speaking Union (Co-organisers of proceedings), show time had arrived.
This year’s topic was on (and a very good choice considering the madness of 2016): Free Speech in the UK; and specifically asking if Free Speech should have No Limits, Be Limited or even be Censored. Upon hearing the 1st 6 speakers, all from the front benches and then another pre-selected speaker from another part of the Chamber, the floor debate opened… And with the majority being a tad nervous to raise their hand, I grasped the opportunity in an instant and was called by Lord Speaker himself.
I spoke on Perspective 1 – the will for no limits on what is a cornerstone of democratic engagement. My main argument stated “and through our amazing teachers within education, a will for free speech to be written in the constitution, well-structured programmes within the media, fair political campaigning, no massive spying on our internet data as soon it will be through the Snoopers Charter and finally a debate like this, the views of those wanting to have a voice will for democracy be a bliss.”
And a bit like 2015, I just then sat back, saw some outstanding orations and took the sceptical all in. At the start and end of the debate, a vote took place to see the opinions before and after and whether anyone’s minds changed. The results were different, as at the start, Perspective 2 of Limiting Free Speech led No Limits 86 to 79 votes with Perspective 3 of Censoring on 20. However, it ended as Perspective 2 on 75 (-11), Perspective 1 taking 98 (+19) and Perspective 3 down on 16 (-4), meaning a clear thought of people had changed massively as things progressed.
Everyone present should be congratulated on being a part of what was a truly wonderful debate – one of the best I have ever been in! And on that feeling, the future of democracy and the future leaders of this great nation – within youth’s hands looks very secure indeed.
2016 House of Lords Chamber Event - The Free Speech Debate: Not an Ordinary Friday! Reviewed by Student Voices on 12:48 Rating: