It was one of those ‘you-could-have-knocked-me-down-with-a-feather’ moments. The Urchin, whose greatest ambition to date has been to get to level 5 of Assassin’s Creed, wants to join the local Youth Parliament.
A Damascene conversion? The beginnings of a social conscience? Well no. Turns out that the Urchin was reading Guido Fawkes’ blog for politics homework (wonders will never cease!) and found an account of the jolly young folk of Surrey’s Youth Parliament.
According to a whistle-blower quoted in the Sun, these enterprising budding politicians blew £15,000 of taxpayers' money on a bash at Epsom racecourse besides awarding themselves expenses-funded meals, new Blackberries and chauffeur-driven car travel.
True, they may need ferrying about, what with not having cars or driving licences, and as they are all aged between 13 and 18, the meals consisted mainly of pizza and chicken wings, but it’s an impressive performance none the less. And nobody seems to know where the buck stops.
‘The £45,000 grant, supposed to be spent on projects to improve life for youngsters in Surrey, with special emphasis on deprived areas, is allocated by Surrey County Council out of central government funds. Surrey County Council initially claimed it was not responsible for checking the cash was properly used. The Government's Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "We expect local authorities to have safeguards in place".'
The story prompted local MP Peter Ainsworth to submit a written question which received a less-than-informative answer; Ed Balls, it seems, has nothing to say on the matter and his stand-in, Dawn Primarolo, produced a singularly meaningless piece of waffle beginning, predictably enough, ‘We are committed to putting youth voice at the heart of our policies and programmes for young people...’
Meanwhile, the cynical Urchin is convinced that this is a golden opportunity to start a career in politics: “Not only do I get on the gravy train early, it’ll also look good on my CV!*”
(I should add two caveats; firstly this story appeared on 2nd April, leaving open the possibility that a gullible Sun reporter was given the story the day before, and secondly the Surrey Youth Parliament is not the same as the UK Youth Parliament, members of which are up in arms at the general slur implied.)
*Which would be no bad thing really, since in Balls’ brave new world, the only way the Urchin will get into a decent university is by time-travelling back to 2004 and enrolling in an underachieving comprehensive.
YPP London meet-up, Friday 22 June
3 hours ago