Cadet takes centre stage in the Lords

Bridget Donaldson in the House of Lords
Bridget Donaldson in the House of Lords

A HIGH-FLYING Morpeth teenager has joined an elite debating crowd to address the House of Lords.

Eighteen-year-old Bridget Donaldson became part of just the seventh ever group, other than peers, to sit on the famous red benches after she was invited to debate the legacy of the First World War.

The King Edward VI School student is no stranger to the Palace of Westminster, having previously addressed the House of Commons during her time as member of the UK Youth Parliament in 2010.

And she was delighted to win the opportunity to make it a double Parliamentary appearance with her Lords debut.

“It didn’t hit me until after I had done it. It was such an overwhelming experience,” she said.

The youngster was put forward for the honour by the 404 Morpeth Squadron Air Cadets, which she serves as Flight Sergeant.

But winning nomination from her unit was just the first stage of selection and she had to battle through a regional and national heat to make the final team.

Bridget said: “A memo came round the air cadets asking if squadrons wanted to put a team in for selection. We got through the regional heat at Newcastle University and then went on to RAF Cranwell for a national heat. My team came second, but they chose five speakers – four from the winning team and me.”

After being chosen as a key speaker, Bridget had to write her speech, helped by an hour-long coaching session with a member of the English Speaking Union.

At the end of November, her big moment came when she joined 48 fellow Royal Air Force Cadets and similar numbers of Sea Cadets, Army Cadets and Royal British Legion veterans at the Houses of Parliament in London.

The group was given a tour of the Palace of Westminster, followed by lunch in the Royal Gallery. Then, soon after Big Ben had struck 3pm, members were shown into the chamber for the televised debate, chaired by Lord Speaker Baroness D’Souza.

Teams were given three aspects of the World War I legacy to consider – the UK is a more globally responsible nation, society is more aware of the impact of war and the UK has not learned from its experience.

Bridget spoke on the latter and a vote at the end of the session saw her argument backed by 73 people. A total of 61 agreed there was increased awareness of the impact of war and 43 voted that the UK was more globally responsible.

Proceedings were televised on BBC Parliament.

“When we got to the House of Lords and were given the tour it was phenomenal,” said Bridget.

“It didn’t properly hit me until afterwards when I watched myself back on television. It was the experience of a lifetime.”

Bridget, who currently serves as Northumberland Lord Lieutenant’s Cadet, hopes to join the RAF as a fighter pilot. She already holds a Private Pilot’s Licence and is a member of 645 Volunteer Gliding Squadron at RAF Topcliffe in North Yorkshire, where she is training to be an RAF flying instructor.