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Martin Horwood MP

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A hot summer’s evening in Cheltenham is a real treat, especially when accompanied by a cool beer or chilled Pimm’s or old-fashioned Lemonade and maybe some music wafting from the nearest festival stage. Trust me, my thoughts do drift back to Cheltenham when I’m trapped in Parliament till all hours listening to some stuffy backbencher with nothing better to do than waste everyone’s time opposing something which should be completely uncontroversial. The price of democracy I guess but it doesn’t put you in a good mood.

Step forward the honourable member for Shipley in Yorkshire, Philip Davies, an old school Tory. He took to his feet one night this summer to oppose the use of the House of Commons by the UK Youth Parliament. Last year, young people from all over the country had been elected as MYPs (Members of the Youth Parliament) and made history by sitting on the hallowed green benches – the first people apart from MPs ever to do so. Their debate was impressive, their calls for better representation, better services and better facilities for young people were well made and their behaviour was significantly better than the real House of Commons. Altogether it showed young people in a very good light and reflected well on Parliament that we were happy to let them use our historic chamber for just one day.

Except for Mr Davies. He was very cross and wanted to stop the young whippersnappers doing it again. The day’s main business - on the dire state of Britain’s public finances and how we could restore them without hitting the poorest hardest – finished at 10 o’clock but Mr Davies forced an extra debate. Still to come after this was a short debate on dangerous dogs, sadly a local issue for me after a series of well-publicised attacks in Cheltenham. But first we had to get past Mr Davies. An hour in, he was just getting warmed up. The rest of us were hot enough already, increasingly tired and beginning to wonder whether Shipley’s MYP might not want to take over from his adult equivalent sooner rather than later. In the end we risked a ‘closure’ motion which needs 100 MPs to cut off a debate but can only be moved once. Miscalculate and we’d be there all night. In the end, we managed 103 votes. Mr Davies mustered just 3. The rest were presumably in bed or had expired in the heat. Finally, we got to ask the government if it was going to support much-needed reform of the Dangerous Dogs Act. Possibly, they said. More pressure needed there obviously but not at 1am when the minister looked as hot and bothered as anyone else.

So Oliver Warne from Cheltenham and the other Youth MPs will take their seats again this summer after all. I hope for their sake that they carry out proceedings more intelligently. And maybe keep some chilled Lemonade on hand just in case. Have a good summer.

For more information on elections to the UK Youth Parliament (www.ukyouthparliament.org.uk) or to contact Martin for any other reason, call 01242 224889 or email:

martin@martinhorwood.net