To celebrate Parliament Week (19-25 November), Filmclub is exploring stories of democracy past, present and future through 12 films. It has also compiled a series of interviews with MPs and celebrities about democracy. Here, 13-year-old Laura McAuley of The Boswells School in Chelmsford puts writer and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg through his paces.
Laura: Who do you think has changed the nature of government most dramatically in the past and why?
Lord Bragg (LB): I'd perhaps single out Thomas Paine. He was very involved in the American Revolution and he helped to write the American Declaration of Independence. He was involved in the French Revolution and revolutionary movements in this country. He set a tone for revolutionary thought and radical change, and he changed the way we lived. He was very influential over the first great woman feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. But I would rather say it was a mass of people because in the 19th century you got groups of people like the Chartists, the socialists and the trade unions, and the women's movement particularly at the beginning of the 20th century.
Laura: In my school we have a student voice system. Do you think that introducing schoolchildren to a democratic system early will encourage them to make better decisions as adults?
LB: I don't know if it will encourage them to make better decisions but it will encourage them to make more informed decisions. I would make every single person vote, I would make it the law. I would have at the bottom a little square that says "I do not wish to vote" and you can tick that. It's very precious, democracy, it's very rare and it's going to be easily swept away.
Laura: What film would you recommend we watch to learn about democracy?
LB: 12 Angry Men. When the film starts, almost all (the jurors) accept that (the defendant) is guilty and this one juror sets out to persuade them that they're wrong. I think he employs a democratic process, he seeks to persuade other people. It is a film about how democracy works and bringing people with you, bringing the consensus with you.
Find Filmclub's Parliament Week resource at: bit.lyFILMCLUBparliament. And check out the TES Parliament Week collection: bit.lytesParliament.