Use your vote’ was the clarion cry of the candidates standing in the Brentwood & Ongar constituency as they addressed students at Brentwood School in a pre-election debate.
Brentwood School Sixth Formers, who were joined by fellow students from Brentwood Ursuline Convent High School, were urged to use their vote, and if they weren’t of age, to encourage their parents to do so.
With less than a month to go until the General Election, representatives of the five main parties took to the Wessex Auditorium stage to both present their political stance and then answer questions from the floor.
The candidates included Mr Alex Burghart, Conservative; Mr Gareth Barrett, Labour; Ms Karen Chilvers, Liberal Democrat; Mr Michael McGough, UKIP, and Mr Paul Jeater, The Green Party. Mr Luke Kousoulou’s decision to stand as an independent candidate was made too late for him to be included in the event.
The Conservatives’ Mr Burghart focused on Brexit and the economy, telling students Prime Minister Theresa May was the ‘very best person to take the country forward.’ Ms Chilvers, a Liberal Democrat who has lived in the area for 25 years, said she was a fierce Remainer and called for a second referendum.
The Green’s Paul Jeater, a former Politics teacher, was also a Remainer and called for an end to an electoral system which had been made for the two-party system, while Labour’s Mr Barrett described himself as ‘a child of Brentwood’ and stressed how the community mattered to him. UKIP’s Mr McGough said he had fought for Brexit for 25 years and the future held massive opportunities.
Questions from the floor ranged from the cost of university tuition fees to electoral reform, the Brexit campaigns, and the candidates’ visions for the local constituency. The debate, which was expertly chaired by Head of Politics Mr Mike Willis, concluded with each candidate being given one-minute to address the young audience.