SIX young politicians gathered last week to launch their manifestos in the campaign run up to election week – February 26 to March 2 – for Darlington’s next Youth MP.

The Northern Echo spoke to each of the candidates about their ambitions.

The Northern Echo:

CANDIDATES: Htet Wunna, left, and Jack Houghton, right

Htet Wunna, 16, from Hummersknott Academy

“What I’m trying to do is protect our schools from damaging budget cuts. I think it’s unfair that we’re having to deal with schools raising the prices of our books and school meals, to make good teachers redundant and remove vital subjects from their curriculum. I want to address granting votes for 16 to 18-year-olds because I think many people would agree that we should have had a say in important referendums in the past. Finally, I would like to address the stigma around mental health. I think it’s unfair for someone to feel ashamed to go and talk to a councillor for something that 1 in 4 people deal with.”

Jack Houghton, 17, from Darlington College

“My main aim is to provide services that have been cut and help young people both mentally and physically. I will campaign to remove the stigma of mental illness with posters and talks with places of education. For sexual health, I think a national campaign, getting other Youth MPs together. And with work experience, talking to local businesses to see what they can do for young people, like teaching them how to start a business.”

The Northern Echo:

CANDIDATES: Francis Humble, left, Dylan Wilson, right

Francis Humble, 14, from Carmel College

“My three main points are an increased minimum wage for under 18s and a minimum wage for under 16s, free school breakfasts and youth discount cards. I was looking at pay grades and I found that there was a difference of £1.55 from somebody over 18 and somebody under 18, and I think that’s unfair. Secondly, in schools, breakfasts are often expensive so I would like to implement a breakfast scheme in which one item would be free. For the youth discount cards, there will be small codes so that things are more affordable for people our age.”

Dylan Wilson, 14, from Carmel College

“My three points are easier access to music through school, affordable sports facilities for young people and student discount cards for secondary schools. The main thing I want to change is cheaper and easier access to music through schools, because it’s very expensive. A private guitar teacher is about £20 an hour and in schools it’s the same price for half the time. There are lots of people who could be very talented with an instrument and they just don’t have the chance.”

The Northern Echo:

CANDIDATES: Vickie Stainer, left, and David Wilson, right

Vickie Stainer, 15, from Carmel College

“I would like to improve help with mental health issues, help young people to be listened to and for them to be able to vote at 16. I think, looking around, you don’t see if people have a mental health issue because you don’t understand what’s going on in their mind or talk to them about it. They don’t get the correct help. I want people to take a few minutes to speak to young people and see what’s wrong. I want to sort it so people can have a better life.”

David Wilson, 15, from Hummersknott Academy

“For my aims, I want better physical and mental health services for Darlington. I want people to be able to resit GCSE exams for more subjects, because if it’s something to do with your future you should be able to have a second chance. Finally, I want zero-tolerance towards bullying, to be stricter on the perpetrators and easier for the victims to report. A lot of the time it’s not just the very serious things, it’s those little remarks which really breaks down people’s self-esteem.”