THE General Election may still be weeks away, but youngsters across Oxfordshire have alrea-dy marked their cards by choosing the candidates they want to represent them in the UK Youth Parliament.

Education, climate change and crime were all on the manifestos of the 17 hopefuls who have been campaigning across the county.

A new electronic system was used for the first time whereby young people at secondary schools, colleges, Connexions centres and youth centres were able to register their votes online.

The 17 candidates vying for posts in north and south Oxfordshire and Oxford city were reduced to three Members of the Youth Parliament and three deputies who now join 600 other UK MYPs.

In Oxford, Diko Blackings, 17, from Cheney School, was elected with his deputy Joseph Lawes, 15, from St Gregory The Great School.

In north Oxfordshire, Sam Hatzigeorgiou, 15, from The Warriner School, Bloxham, was chosen as an MYP with his deputy Francesca Ingall, 15, also from The Warriner School.

And in south Oxfordshire, Helen Walker, 15, from Larkmead School, Abingdon, was elected with her deputy Alex Longworth-Krafft, 17, from Henley College.

Ms Walker, who was first elected a deputy MYP last year and is now a full-fledged MYP, said: “I have had the best year ever being in UK Youth Parliament.

“I have learnt so much and I’m so happy I’ve been re-elected because I don’t want this journey to end.”

Mr Hatzigeorgiou said: “My family are constantly telling me how much my confidence has grown since being elected to the UK YP.

“I must admit at the beginning I was terrified, but this year I have had so much fun it was all worth it.”

Last year, Oxfordshire’s MYPs made history by being among the first non-MPs in 300 years to take to the famous green benches and hold a debate in the House of Commons.

The UK Youth Parliament is used as a forum to advise the Government on issues affecting young people.

Current hot topics include abolishing university tuition fees and reducing the cost of bus travel for youngsters.

Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for children, young people and families Louise Chapman said: “It is really important for the young people – who sit alongside ministers in some cases and learn so much about the democratic process. They have an impact on decision-making, and these are some of the politicians of the future.”