It may be a snap General Election but student questioning of the four main party candidates in the Brentwood & Ongar constituency, part of a Brentwood School hustings event, was both considered and well thought out.
Following their one-minute opening statements, candidates were held to task by students, many of whom would be voting for the first time, on issues ranging from Brexit, to climate change, university tuition fees and homelessness.
Sixth Formers from Brentwood School were joined by students from a number of other local schools for the lively and wide-ranging debate, chaired by long-standing Head of Politics Mr Mike Willis, in the School’s packed Wessex Auditorium.
Labour’s Oliver Durose, who grew up in Brentwood and attended local schools, was described by Mr Willis as ‘a spokesman for youth’. He said: “Austerity has failed…. investment not cutbacks is how you grow the economy.”
Former Politics and History teacher, Paul Jeater of The Green Party, moved to the Brentwood area in 1991 & joined the Green Party in 2012 because ‘it was the only party that put the environment at the centre of its policies and understood the serious threat of Climate Change.’ He told the young audience this was a ‘climate crisis election.’ “The world faces a huge emergency and the time for action is now.”
Alex Burghart, a former teacher and university lecturer, currently seeking re-election as Conservative MP for the constituency, told the young audience “This is an extraordinarily exciting election.” The last decade had been spent on the economy and Brexit and his party was on the cusp of solving both, he said.
Liberal Democrat David Kendall, who has been a Brentwood Borough Councillor for 27 years and an Essex County Councillor for over ten, said: “This is the most important election in my lifetime. A vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote to stop Brexit.”
The debate was then opened up to questions from the floor with students asking the panel where the money would come from for their promises; what they would do in this constituency to tackle climate change; the implications for British democracy and Government accountability if Brexit was stopped; the contentious issue of university tuition fees, homelessness and the charitable status of private schools.
During their one-minute summations, there was, however, one issue all four candidates did agree on and that was the importance of actively participating in democracy and they urged all those eligible to vote to ensure they did so.
Also standing in the Brentwood & Ongar constituency is Robin Tilbrook, representing the English Democrats.