Member of the Youth Parliament for Swindon, 16-year-old Ellie James from Grange Park, has been answering your questions this week.
Here’s what the Lydiard Park Academy student had to say as she took to the hotseat:
Q. Your 'education then procreation' strapline is interesting. Does it mean that, in your opinion, it's ok for girls to have children as long as they've finished school?
Yes, because if you the education while it’s there for you, while you are still a child, you can take that further on in later life. It's a lot more difficult if you decide you do want to do something which requires you to go back to education later on. Education isn’t for everyone and there are different routes for education, you don’t just have to go from school to college. There are also people who just want to leave school and have children, and that’s great, but if you think you might want to do something else later on it’s important to get your education first.
Q. It appears that your campaign is aimed specifically at young girls. Do you not think it would be better to promote to both sexes the benefits of having a job/career first instead of jumping straight from education to pregnancy/welfare?
In my campaign speech I mentioned quite a lot about males and about how they are also affected. As a young female you have to stay at home and look after the child but there’s also the pressure on the male to provide, so he might give up his education and get a job he doesn’t like so he can provide for his family, whereas if he stayed in education he might not have to get a dead end job. That was all part of my campaign speech.
Q. If you could change just one law, what would it be?
That’s a difficult question. I don’t really know. My campaign is more about the young people and about trying to encourage and inspire the young people to believe in themselves and in education. it’s more about helping young people than changing any law.
Q. What more do you think the council and government could do to get more young people into politics?
The national campaign for the UK Youth Parliament is the vote at 16, and I think it’s a really positive campaign. When you are 16 you’re still in school and you are easier to engage then when you leave school and you’re a more captive audience and I think you should have a say on the decisions that will affect your life. Whether you are involved with it or not I think it’s really, really important. And while they are still in school you can captivate these young people and teach them about politics. I think if there was political education in schools for people aged 15 and 16 they would be more inspired to get involved in politics. And I think people should have more faith in young people being able to make those decisions, and I think people should be less stereotypical about young people. I’m doing a project at the moment with Fixers and it’s fantastic, it’s about young people trying to fix things for other young people. These are young people trying to change things, and that’s what politics is.
Q. Do you think party politics helps or hinders politics?
I think the Youth Parliament is really good because it’s actually apolitical and it’s really good to be able to do what you want without people stereotyping you or judging you on what associations you have with political parties, so in answer to the question I think I would have to say yes. But then we get to have competition with party politics and I haven’t had much experience but from my experience the competition helps to improve things, but I would have to learn more about it.
Q. What do you think about women in politics?
I think women are definitely under-represented and part of the reason why I went into this really is because I wanted to encourage and inspire other young women to go into politics. I am I think a feminist and I really think we are under-represented, and there should be more encouragement for women to get involved and that if they want to go into politicians they should. But then there is positive discrimination which I don’t think is good either. it should come from the young people themselves.
Q. How do you see your campaign changing and developing over time?
My campaign has changed slightly, it’s not so much about teenage pregnancy but about all the things that can stop people from realising their dreams and about how education can help them realise that. Teenage pregnancy is part of it but there are other things and other choices which young people make which can prevent them reaching their dreams.
Q. What inspired you to enter politics?
It was Carney Bonner who was the member of the UK Youth Parliament and was to see him try to change things for young people and I just thought it was something that I would like to do to try and make a positive difference.
Q. Do you want to be Prime Minister one day?
People always say to me ‘oh, you’re going to be the next Prime Minister’ but that’s not really my goal, I’m not doing this for that. I’m doing this because I want to make as much of a difference as I can and there’s nothing stopping me. If I could be Prime Minister that would be amazing but it’s not a specific ambition.
Q. What are the key characteristics you need to be a politician?
Confidence. Decisive. A good people person. They’re the top qualities of a politician really.
Q. Why do you think so many teenagers have no interest in politics today and what could be done to inspire them?
Because there’s that perception that politicians are those middle-aged men young people really aren’t inspired by them. But also it depends who you are surrounded by. If you’re parents aren’t interested or your peers aren’t interested then you aren’t going to be interested and I think that’s why it is so important to have political education in schools.
Q. What do your family think about you entering politics at such a young age?
They’re all really proud of me. I’ve had a lot of support. They always say they don’t know how I can do this and do my GCSEs but I like doing things and keeping busy and I think if I wasn’t doing all these things I would just get a bit lazy.