I’d like to thank Paul Heery, Executive Principal of the White Hills Park Trust, for inviting Bramcote Today editors to join the hustings arranged to engage young people in politics. Dr Heery explained this was a selective hustings and only candidates who had previously stood as a candidate before were invited to make the 90 minute event more manageable.
Paul said of WHP, “We are a small school but conscious of our place in the world.” He added, “Young people are often criticised for not engaging but all the students in the audience had enthusiastically agreed to attend.
Paul introduced the four candidates and asked them to give an overview of their policies/values.
Kat Boettge – Green Party
Anna Soubry – Independent Group for Change (Leader)
Greg Marshall – Labour
Darren Henry – Conservative
Click on the link at the start of this post to read about the candidates (who were keen to establish their association with Broxtowe at the Hustings).
Then Paul invited several students, plus a member of staff, to read out pre-selected questions:
Question 1: How important is it to have a local connection to the constituency?
Darren – His family are based in Broxtowe. He wants his children and grandchildren to go to school here. He jumped at the chance to take the Broxtowe seat when it became available. He previously travelled in the RAF and believes he has a wealth of knowledge to share with Broxtowe residents.
Greg – He lives in Attenborough. His father worked for Plessey. All his family are local. He described himself as the authentic local candidate. But he says local connection isn’t everything. It helps you to relate to local people but the right policies are more important.
Anna – What is important is not so much where you sleep but where you work. She believes all four candidates would work hard for their constituents but the policies, principles and values are what matters most – common sense.
Kat – Thanked Anna for supporting her as she had been offended by Greg’s implication that she wouldn’t make a good MP as she wasn’t born here. She stands for policies and values – climate change being the most important.
Question 2: Your parties have promised spending increases in various areas, how will these be paid for?
Kat – It’s not straight forward. Passion and climate change should come first. She agreed that it was going to cost but we didn’t have a choice.
Anna – Our economy is successful and growing but was cautious of extravagant cash splashing promises. She said of Labour – they plan to raise tax for everyone, not just the rich. She explained the importance of not over charging Corporation Tax. The consequence would be workers salaries would need to decrease or the cost of goods would need to increase. Of the Conservative party, Anna commented they appeared to have abandoned previous constraints to spend wisely and she believed their promises were largely unfunded. She recommended a dividend tax increase and to spend on free personal care but she believes if we leave the European Union we will return to being referred to as the Sick man of Europe. We were the fifth most prosperous country and we have now slipped to sixth position.
Darren – Also spoke of the importance of correctly taxing companies that generate employment which, in turn, enables spending power. Darren quoted Labour are planning on an £86bn and Conservatives £3bn spending sprees in respect of public services.
Greg – Spoke of how Labour would make big companies, who currently avoid or evade paying tax, pay and they would increase Corporation Tax to the rate it was in 2009. Greg claimed the Conservatives have borrowed more than Labour ever did and referred to in work poverty. Finally, Greg spike of a national Investment Bank with £250 bn being allocated regionally.
Question 3: Can you explain how you’ll be encouraging your party to improve national security following this weekend’s events?
Anna – Appalled how the death of two young people in the terror attack were used to their own political advantage by the leaders of the two main parties. To understand the facts of the legislation changes relating to the perpetrator’s release, Anna recommended reading The Secret Barrister’s explanation.
Darren – Believes the government’s first responsibility is the safety of their people. He would recommend to keep investing in security services and for terrorism to give indeterminate prison sentences.
Greg – Referred to the culture amongst nations and the multitude of issues including underfunding of prisons and probation services. He recommended a commission should oversee a complete review of the sentencing process and said the PREVENT agenda needed better engagement.
Kat – Spoke of division being frightening and sad. The country should work together to start healing and leaving the EU is a bad start. We should think about being inclusive and enjoying diversity. Kat also referred to the impact, in this respect, of climate changes creating water shortages resulting in more people needing to live in the cities, which adds to the global problem. The EU was the biggest peace project ever.
Question 4: What do you think is the biggest problem facing schools, and how can it be solved? (and not just lack of funding!)
Greg – Has seen a shift in the culture of teaching. He believes schools over test pitching school against school rather than encouraging schools working together to share best practices.
Anna – Contradicted Greg’s comment re funding and clarified that all schools received an increase in their budget, albeit not necessarily a sufficient increase. She stressed that it’s important to be honest about the facts. She would like to see bigger resilience and aspiration in pupils to address lack of esteem. She agreed changes are needed to Ofsted and the importance was pupil progression rather than the current scoring which doesn’t measure this.
Kat – believes society should pay for Higher Education and is against academies. kat also spoke of the importance of enjoyment of learning, rather than filling stats and her concerns over the pressures leading to mental health issues.
Darren – also agreed more funding was needed. He was a Governor of a school which became a highly successful academy and he believes we should have choice. In Broxtowe of the 45 schools and colleges, only two do not hold a good or outstanding rating from Ofsted, which is an independent group to ensure high standards. Of Higher Education, he said that more students than ever before now went to university and why shouldn’t they pay for this education when it will likely give them higher earning capability. He does believe in promoting other pathways to education such as apprenticeships. Greg also spoke of the importance of teaching budgeting and tax in schools.
Question 5: UK has increased trade with some oppressive countries/regimes, would you limit trade and payments to them, how can we want to be so welcoming to some of these regimes, and will you come out in support of Hong Kong protesters?
Kat – Crucial to have morals above business and not trade with countries with a bad human rights record. We need to be clear on values of democracy and peace.
Darren – We need to take these countries to task through a background of diplomacy but it’s not good for us if a state fails because we withdrew trade. Darren suggested supporting them through foreign aid. He believes they can benefit from free trade and capitalism and that is why we are successful.
Greg – Condemns sales of arms to Saudi Arabia and challenged Darren on this point.
Anna – Explained it’s important to understand that individuals and businesses are carrying out the trade. She challenged us to check labels in clothing and we will see a lot has been made in China. She said we can begin to change their undemocratic practices by trading with them. Otherwise workers will loose their jobs.
These are not minutes but a reflection of the opinions of four of our seven candidates given last Monday which I hope will enable readers to make an informed decision a week today.