Hannah Clarke-McKeran, Youth Parliament Member for North Tyneside

Hannah Clarke-McKeran writes about becoming a Member the UK Youth Parliament.

When we think of the term ‘do it yourself’ the first thing that springs to mind is probably that failed DIY project you started in lockdown or when you get an IKEA delivery and you try to make that coffee table you saw on Pinterest. 

What we don’t think of is applying to be the Member of Youth Parliament at the age of 15 because you hate PSHE and you thought, ‘hey might as well’, and then you have to iron out what your pledge actually is because ‘change PSHE lessons’ isn’t really going to cut it, and then you get to the night where they announce the winner, you look around at the other nominees and realise you’ve only got to the second stage of voting on some fluke and there’s no way you’re actually going to win it. Then they say your name and suddenly it all starts getting a bit too real and this isn’t the type of panic that happens when you can find a screw on that IKEA coffee table, no, this is actual responsibility. This is what it feels like to finally be heard, to have a say in how your future is going to look. And now you’re kind of regretting not paying more attention to your hair and makeup because photos are being taken and you have to wipe your hands on your skirt because otherwise you’re going to shake the local MP’s hand and your hands are really sweaty, the speech your asked to make is just a cluttered bunch of thank yous and it’s getting more real every second: how little you have prepared, that you haven’t thought any of this through. Then you see your mum at the back of the hall; your mum who has cried at every single one of your school productions (just like she is now), your mum who has been there through every single step of your life and in doing so taught you how to walk – not just in the literal sense but also in the sense of self she has taught you, the very foundations of what it is to be Hannah Clarke-McKeran all carefully sculpted by her hand. And now she’s looking at you with tears in her eyes and both hands on her heart and all you can do is smile, because even though this is real it’s also good. 

I think that was when it clicked for me, that I wanted to change the world. Looking in my mother’s eyes and seeing how proud she was of me, I enjoyed that feeling of this validating pride telling me that what I was doing was good. While I am still very much an introverted teenager who enjoys reading books with the only other company being my cat, I began to crave this validation from anyone I could find. It was my drug, and I played my part as the addict well, I still do. Any time I had to do a public appearance I saw it as a part in a play where my lines were pre-set and my actions layed out in a script. I would stop being just basic old Hannah and become ‘Hannah Clarke-McKeran Member of Youth Parliament for North Tyneside’ and at the end I would get my applause and I relished in it. The spotlight on me, people coming up to me and telling me how inspirational I was, it filled the pit inside of me with a temporary sense of fulfilment and that has brought me to where I am today, surfing these waves of pride I see in strangers eyes when I tell them what I do.

I feel as though I may have disappointed those of you wishing for some writing about how selfless I am and I do this out of the kindness of my own heart (and while that is a very key part of my role and I do believe that change is needed and it is needed now) selfless people do not get power and no one who has power is selfless. That is a rule I have learnt in life through my experiences: as a woman, as a young person and just as a simple human being. So my main message to you is this: if you want and idea to become a vision then you have to take it into your own hands as if it were a baby bird and you have to shield this pure, angelic idea through the battlefields of life and while you may be shot at or tripped up, the only thing in your life is this idea, you have to form this symbiotic relationship with it until it becomes the vision you always had and that is when you get the reward of completion. You have to dedicate yourself so wholly, put so much on the line, sacrifice everything, so that when it evolves you evolve with it, and you are the only person who has the ability to create this vision. So, if you want something done, you have to do it yourself.