The Upper Sixth Form student body and Politics students from the Lower Sixth Form at Reigate Grammar School organised and attended a General Election hustings at the school on Monday 18 November.
Moderated by A Level Politics students Isabel A and Katie H, candidates from four of the five major parties gave a three-minute pitch before taking questions from the floor.
As Reigate’s current MP, Crispin Blunt opened proceedings for the Conservatives, giving his opinion that the 2019 General Election is the country’s most important since 1983. He also talked about the threat to a school such as Reigate Grammar School in the case of what he described as extreme left-wing politics coming to power.
Representing the Liberal Democrats, John Vincent reiterated that his position on Brexit has not changed since he was last at the school in 2016 during the Referendum; his opinion being that the country is stronger within the EU. He told the audience of 16 to 18 year olds that “this election will shape your working lives” and encouraged the young people to be politically aware, active and well-informed. Jonathan concluded with “Vote Lib Dem and stop Brexit now”.
From the Green Party, Jonathan Essex opened with his opinion that Brexit sums up how politics is failing the nation. On the subject of climate change, he told students that they need to “call out the politicians’ inability to do anything or to follow through on their promises, stating that while the media tell us that it’s up to us to make a change, actually we need politicians to take action. Summing up, he clarified that his position on Brexit is identical to that of the Lib Dems.
Labour’s candidate Suzanne Gregory opened with a greeting from Old Reigatian Sir Keir Starmer. She went on to say plainly that she feels it’s time for a change, with Crispin Blunt having been Reigate’s MP for a long time. Suzanne outlined Labour’s progressive, transformative policies – much needed, according to her, as change is long overdue. For Suzanne, the biggest issue on the table should not be Brexit, but climate change. Closing, Suzanne encouraged the audience to vote for a second referendum by voting Labour.
All four candidates then answered questions from Reigate Grammar School students on thorny electoral issues including the viability of the four-day week proposed by Labour, whether or not a vote for any party other than the Conservatives is a wasted vote in this constituency, and university tuition fees.
Speaking after the event, RGS Head of Politics John Haskey commented “We would like to thank all the candidates for coming to our debate and supporting our students. With over half of our Upper Sixth having the vote for the first time, it was a great opportunity to help them make an informed decision. All agreed that the 2019 General Election will be hugely important for setting the direction of the country. The debate was organised and run by the students themselves and there was little doubt that they rigorously interrogated all the candidates.”