It’s not often that the Member of Parliament for Altrincham and Sale West gets to address the United Nations, but on the 15th June, I found myself doing exactly that. Admittedly, this was a model United Nations, held at Manchester Grammar School.
The High Master Christopher Wray opened the conference, attended by 200 bright sixth-formers from schools as far apart as Scotland, south London and Dublin. It’s not necessarily what you expect to find teenagers getting up to at the weekend, but this group were impressive. I made the opening address to the conference; the theme was to be ‘strengthening democracy.’ I spoke about the current political situation and the challenges facing an unstable world.
All these events are so central now, with events in the Middle East. I and other backbenchers have had some success in discouraging direct military involvement in Syria and securing a pledge that Parliament would be consulted before any escalation took place. The students debated a number of issues, including ‘peacekeepers or mercenaries – the role of private security firms; corporal punishment in schools; the effectiveness of international aid and the question of democracy and the responsibility to protect. The students themselves took on the roles whether as president of the assembly or members of the secretariat and dealt with each role with great professionalism. The president of the General Assembly was from Cheadle Hulme School with a number of guest chair people and a guest secretariat from Withington Girls School, Manchester High and Cheadle Hulme. The quality of debates was outstanding. Just for the record, Shrewsbury School won the ‘Outstanding Delegation’ award as Russia.
As far as strengthening democracy is concerned, the future looks bright if some of these young people continue to play a part.