IF YOU’RE aged under 18 and you have a real problem with transport in South Holland you’ll be glad to hear someone is speaking out on your behalf.
Matthew Mortimer, of Cley Hall Drive in Spalding, has recently been elected a member of the UK Youth Parliament (UKYP) for Lincs South (South Holland area) – and at 15, this impressive young man is the youngest member nationally.
Top of the list of priorities for this year for all UKYP elected members is the issue of transport and, more specifically, “making public transport cheaper, better and accessible for all” in the words of UKYP’s national campaign.
That issue was the one that won the vote by members of UKYP in the House of Commons for its top priority campaign for 2012, selected from a shortlist of the top five chosen in a public ballot.
Matthew too will take his turn in the House of Commons during his term in office, and is already getting into the swing of handling meetings with key people, such as representatives of South Holland District Council, the police and local MP John Hayes, in order to build links and prepare the field for his campaigning activities.
He is handling it all with typical calm and courteous confidence, which is what helped him get elected in the first place to UKYP, a non-political group run by young people and providing opportunities for 11 to 18-year-olds to use their voices “in creative ways to bring about social change”, as the organisation’s website puts it.
The idea of young people having a voice is not new and many schools now have school councils – Matthew is currently chairman of the school council at his own school, the Sir John Gleed School (Boys’ Campus).
“It was the school council that got me interested in UKYP because I am a good, confident speaker and I don’t mind speaking in front of loads of people and will say what’s on my mind,” explained Matthew, who lives with mum Jackie, step-dad John and his older brother Daniel (20). He also has two step-sisters, Jade (16) and Dee (19) Pegg.
Matthew was one of a group of four pupils from his school to take part in a four or five-day school twinning visit to Poland and has stayed in touch with some of the people he met there. As a result of that, as well as the fact that he studies alongside a number of Polish pupils at school and that his step-mother is a Czech, he is doing his bit for international harmony and has mastered a few Polish words.
Jackie confirms that Matthew has always discussed issues that are important to him round the dinner table and adds that she is proud of her son’s attempts at breaking down language barriers.
Matthew says: “It is important to me to let young people have their say. I think adults do respect teenagers, but they don’t take our opinions into consideration. Respect is important to me.”
Despite his responsibilities, Matthew still has time for fun in his personal life, although much of it ties in with his future career plans within the technical side of theatre, such as lighting and sound. In that capacity he is involved in his school’s entry in the inter-school Rock Challenge 2012 contest and will be taking on the technical side of the school’s High School Musical production.
Follow Matthew on Twitter @MattMYP.