AN Earlston High student is the sole Scottish winner of a unique political writing competition, writes Andrew Keddie.
Calum Brydon-Leigh’s efforts have been rewarded this week with an all-expenses paid visit to London and a tour of the Palace of Westminster.
Calum, 14, from Blainslie, was selected as the regional winner in the national Write On competition, organised and promoted by the Parliamentary Press Gallery (PPG) – the organisation for parliamentary and political journalists at Westminster.
The competition, which began in 2003, attracted thousands of entries from senior secondary school pupils across the UK.
Like the PPG, which now includes bloggers, political websites and Twitter users alongside traditional newspaper hacks, the competition has evolved.
Students were asked to depart from the usual format of writing a speech or an essay and come up with an email of no more than 500 words.
Entrants were invited to imagine they were a party leader whose members are worried about the way things are going politically. The purpose of the email is to explain to supporters what you, as leader, have been trying to achieve and why the members can look forward to a bright future.
Calum selected arguably the most challenging of the available options by being Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, defending his party’s decision to go into coalition with the Conservatives and undertaking the possibly even harder task of identifying policies that might make the party more popular.
Mr Clegg congratulated Calum and described the competition as “a really innovative way of engaging young people beyond Westminster in our political process”.
He went on: “Too often, young people feel alienated and excluded from politics and this competition is a great showcase for their wealth of talent.”
With mum Kate accompanying him, Calum was due to return from London yesterday, having spent the night at the famous Mint Hotel in Westminster. His tour of the Palace of Westminster included visits to the Commons and Lords and a lunch reception.
The winners went on to visit 10 Downing Street and later met with Commons Speaker John Bercow who presented them with certificates. Earlier Calum had met political journalists during a tour of the BBC television studios at Millbank.
Calum’s stepfather, Andy Leigh, said the competition success was a great fillip for his stepson.
“Calum had always wanted to an RAF pilot, but was recently ruled out because of his colour-blindness,” Andy said. “Perhaps a career in politics now beckons.”
Richard Burrell, Calum’s modern studies teacher at Earlston, said of his pupil’s feat: “It truly is a great achievement. I’m sure his success will be an inspiration to others.”