BRETT John, 19, from Llanelli attended the 9th Commonwealth Youth Parliament in Jersey last week, representing Wales. Over 50 young people from across the Commonwealth came together to work as legislators in a mock-parliamentary setting.
Brett was selected to become the Chief Whip of the largest party which was tasked with passing legislation by working with other parties.
Brett said: “This has been an amazing experience to meet young leaders, act as a politician and shout about how great Wales is. I found myself constantly extending invites to come and see Wales to delates from Canada through to Australia.
Each of the circa 50 delegates were assigned a party or to be an independent member of Commonwealthland – an invented nation of 100,000 people. We convened in our respective conference rooms and began to deliberate the leadership, and consequently direction, of the party.
I was given the role of Chief Whip of the Opposition – the largest party in the land – which entailed ensuring my own party was on message while engaging in both formal and informal negations with other parties. I’m someone who always finds themselves working in one way or another, so this role was perfect. From the first party meeting when we woke up, to messaging our Facebook group, to chatting at a drinks reception in the evening, my colleagues and I did our best to persuade other delates to support our Health Bill, amendments or sentiments in the Chamber.
From the start of the process, as a party, we were aware that our political priority was to pass our Health Bill without massive changes made by the Government that would detract from what we aimed to do – which was making access to primary healthcare more accessible.
The first hurdle to jump over was ensuring that our Health motion was debated at all, which members had to vote in favour to do. I took this opportunity in the Assembly to voice to the delegates from across the world how Wales was the nation that gave the world the National Health Service, and how important it is to us all.
The independents and third party naturally became king makers at each and every vote. It was key to realise this as early as possible in the process to ensure that my party established a positive rapport with their leaders.
The biggest thing I learned at the Parliament wasn’t about motions or procedure, it was about people. Within my party, rifts and divisions began to formulate which led to resignations and the creation of a new party. Certain delegates were noticeably not contributing to debates.
However, as we started to recognise the problems flourish, we took action. It is surprising how much sitting down with someone and ensuring they feel listened to does to empower them and reinforce a sensation of unity. I think parties across the spectrum would do well to learn from this.
When it came down to it, we all managed to work together through adversity to achieve outcomes. That mirrors what we must do as a society over the next few years to ensure economic prosperity and global stability.
The Commonwealth presents huge potential for us to collaborate, trade and work alongside – and given the specific circumstances we find ourselves in, namely that of leaving the EU, it is a bloc of relations that we can’t afford to ignore.
Even in Wales itself, people enjoy reminding ourselves that we are ‘just a small country’ with a minuscule population and no right to speak on an international stage. However, when it comes to the Commonwealth, Wales can be seen as a significant nation. I was surprised by the number of delegates who recognised my accent as being ‘Welsh’ and associated the daffodil on my lapel with the country I was proudly representing.
Let’s stop playing our potential down. Let’s blossom by believing in ourselves.”
Mark Egan, Greffier of the States of Jersey, said: “We are delighted to welcome so many young people from across the Commonwealth to Jersey for this exciting and unique opportunity. The youth Parliament will allow young people to develop their leadership skills and experience our historic Parliament, as well as empower them to make a positive difference in shaping the future of their own communities.”