We catch up with the budding politician and find that underpinning her enthusiasm for politics is an incredible drive to ‘give something back’
Natasha Browne talks a million miles an hour about her dedication to ‘making a difference’. The 18-year-old from Solihull has been interested in politics for years. Her first foray into the arena was as a member of her local parish council in 2009. “I love councilly things,” she says. Natasha is not typical. If we’re to believe much of what we read, the 18-24 year old demographic is disengaged from politics. Also, they are more likely to be unemployed than their elders and crucially less connected to society than ever before. Although Natasha feels privileged and had access to a top notch education at the independent Solihull School, she is passionate about giving less fortunate youngsters a voice. “Society gives you a lot and I wanted to give something back, particularly to young people who aren’t as lucky as me,” she says. These aren’t just sound bites. Natasha joined the UK Youth Parliament representing Solihull in 2011 and has shown incredible dedication as current chair of the Youth Select Committee for Education.
The Youth Select Committee is a serious commitment for young people, particularly while studying for A-levels. The committee has the power to scrutinise public issues and chair inquiries into topics affecting young people. Eleven teenagers are chosen through a rigorous selection process with the successful applicants following the same structure as the Parliamentary Select Committee. Natasha wasn’t only successful in making it onto the committee, she was voted chair by her fellow members made up of 16 to 18 year olds from across the country which was “an honour you can only dream about”.
Natasha sits in the same chair and parliamentary committee room in which Lord Leveson conducted his inquiry into press standards. Five issues were debated at the beginning of this year’s process and a vote established which one was deemed the most important. This year’s chosen campaign is ‘A Curriculum for Life’. The committee’s report will be published in November to which the government is required to respond. “’A Curriculum for Life’ is about setting young people up for a successful future, so we’re addressing issues like cultural awareness, finance skills, political education, sustainable living, sex and relationship education and community cohesion,” says Natasha. She plays down the level of work involved, but admits, “the evidence sessions were after my A-levels, but reading evidence was right in the middle of my exams, which was difficult.” The timings have been changed for next year to avoid interfering with committee member’s studies.
The highlight of Natasha’s experience is, “knowing that MP’s, councillors and other decision makers understand that young people have a powerful voice that they choose to listen to, makes all the hard work pay off.”
Despite the demands of her political work Natasha achieved the A-level grades she needed to study maths and philosophy at Birmingham University. In terms of political ambition Natasha says, “I would like to stay in British youth politics and get involved in student politics at university too. I’m less interested in party politics for now. I’m just delighted to be able to represent young people and voice their concerns on such a national scale,” she says.
At 18, Natasha has ‘given back’ more than lots of people do in the whole of their adult lives. Given she looks so comfortable at the despatch box and found it such an ‘honour’ it will be interesting to see what happens when Natasha does embrace party politics. Natasha recalls, “leading a debate from the dispatch box was amazing. It was an opportunity of a lifetime, to know that so many great speakers and leaders have spoken there. It was even more special because I was representing young people who had voted for me, and because I was elected to lead the debate on behalf of the West Midlands.”