Life peer Baroness Scott has wise words for one of Norfolk’s new youth politicians
Archant © 2014
One of Norfolk’s newest young politicians grabbed the chance to debate issues with one the nation’s most seasoned campaigners when a life peer from the House of Lords visited her school.
Baroness Scott of Needham Market was at Neatherd High in Dereham to speak to students as part of the Peers in Schools programme.
There, she met 14-year-old Emily Fox, who became the new youth parliament representative for Mid Norfolk after securing 1,788 votes at last week’s election.
The pair discussed youth unemployment and apprenticeships, and the student quizzed the baroness on her responsibilities as a life peer, and how she found her way into politics – firstly as a community activist, and then as a local councillor.
Despite becoming her party’s president and one of the Lib Dems’ key architects of the Coalition government in 2010, Baroness Scott said her proudest moment in politics was as a councillor in Suffolk, helping to get a new nursery built in her home town of Needham Market.
Emily said she had enjoyed meeting Baroness Scott and learning that her reasons for becoming a politician were initially out of necessity, to get things changed at the local level.
The student said: “It has inspired me – you know what these politicians have done, and you know what you want to do, and so it makes you want to go further.”
Emily said that in her two years’ tenure, she hopes to further the cause for voting rights at 16 years of age, to try to get more young people – especially females – involved in politics, and to raise awareness and education of finance skills for young people.
Baroness Scott said the youth parliament was a vital way of engaging young people in decisions affecting their lives.
“I think all of these initiatives are important because, for all the faults of our democratic system, it is better than anything else,” she said.
“I have never thought there was a ‘magic age’ to get started; that you should get to your 18th birthday and then feel you have to engage with the process. To be honest, it is a bit late if you have not got engaged with it by then. At the end of the day, you have got to participate and get involved in your local community – otherwise, nothing will ever happen.”
After a presentation on the history of the House of Lords and its role in the political process, the baroness took questions from a group of about 40 students.
Headteacher Peter Devonish said: “We are really proud of Emily, and she fought a really good campaign involving social media. She is very bright and very articulate and she will do a really good job moving forward these issues for young people.
“It is a real coup for us to have Baroness Scott here as well. We are all dealing with challenge and aspiration in Norfolk, so to have a baroness coming in, explaining that she came from a small Suffolk town and to see where she is now – it is very important for students to see that.”