Front-line politics: boys’ hit blog earns an invitation to Westminster

Two Year 11 boys were invited to the Parliamentary launch of a major report on digital communications – after their new political blog rapidly attracted thousands of followers.

Adrian Burbie and Ché Applewhaite established Whippersnapper in January to give themselves and other like-minded young people a platform to voice their views and to promote lively discussion around the hot topics of the UK and world today. With lively, fresh posts every couple of days, the new blog quickly found a readership and in its first two weeks attracted more than 1,500 followers.

It also caught the eye of the Digital Democracy Commission, who invited them to attend the launch of its report, Open Up!, at Portcullis House, the Westminster office block that provides offices for 213 MPs. The report was the culmination of a year’s project which investigated how Parliament can use digital technology to help it to be more transparent, inclusive, and better able to engage the public with democracy.

""Adrian and Ché joined some august company at the breakfast launch hosted by the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow MP (pictured right). The Commission itself included Robert Halfon MP, Hull University Politics Professor, Cristina Leston-Bandeira, and Helen Milner, Chief Executive of the Tinder Foundation, a leading not-for-profit social enterprise committed to the ‘smart’ use of digital technology. The invited audience included journalists, MPs and professionals with interest in the field.

“We were delighted to be invited, as we have an interest in both politics and digital media,” said Adrian. “We chose the name ‘Whippersnapper’ as we know that some older people often view younger people as being feckless layabouts, who are apathetic about politics and contribute little to society. We hope we can be the exception that disproves the rule.”

“We are the generation who have grown up with digital media as a core part of how we acquire and share knowledge,” said Ché. “It’s rewarding that our views and opinions are seen as valuable by the Establishment; indeed the invitation to the launch reflects that.”

During the Q&A session at the end of the report’s launch, Adrian put a question to the Commission.

""“I asked them whether there was a danger that public access to legislation would lead to policy-makers being swayed by populism and therefore conducting themselves in a way to merely boost their online popularity.”

The question was answered by Commission member, Robert Halfon, who likened the current situation to when television was introduced in the House of Commons. He had faith in the British public to vote for the government they believed would do the best job; populism might occasionally triumph in the short term, but in the long term people make the right decisions.