Ashford School Hosts Political Hustings
On Thursday 5 December, a week before polling day, a packed Ashford School hall played host to a local political hustings. The School welcomed candidates from the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green parties, as well as an independent candidate.
The purpose of the visit was to allow each candidate to explain each party’s political perspective and then to put their respective views to the scrutiny of pupils. Over 150 pupils attended, with Sixth Formers and many lower school students and scholars choosing to give up their time to take part. We were also delighted to welcome visitors from Wye School, Towers and the Norton Knatchbull to offer their questions diversify opinions further.
The hustings launched with an introduction of each candidate’s background, party and policies. First up was Dara Farrell, a lifelong Ashfordian representing Labour; graduate of UKC and vice chair of a national children’s charity. He was followed by the green speaker, Cllr Steve Campkin, representing candidate Mandy Rossi. He stood as the Parliamentary Candidate in 2010, serves on the Environment Committee and is also Co-Leader of The Green Group on Ashford Borough Council. Then came Adrian Gee Turner, the Liberal Democrat candidate who previously stood in 2017, on a platform advocating a stop to Brexit and a lowering of the voting age. Penultimately came Conservative Damian Green; sitting MP for Ashford since 1997, and former First Secretary of State. Finally came independent candidate Susannah De Sanvil, standing on a pro-Brexit platform.
Soon after the candidates’ introductions came the Question Time-style grilling. Over the course of 45 minutes, the audience ferociously quizzed and dissected the candidates’ manifesto promises. Highlights included discussions about abolishing private schools, which party was on the right side of history, and the necessity of free broadband compared to other essentials. Topics also included poverty, social injustice, knife crime and the environment. This was a wide-ranging and mature debate, whose probing questions generated extended discussion and debate from the panel.
We’d like to wholeheartedly thank all five candidates for giving up their time to talk to our students and subject their views to discussion. Democracy is, however a two-way process and the students should also be congratulated for the quality of their engagement, questioning and the discourse generated. No one should have the excuse of voting in ignorance after this rigorous and very parliamentary event. Thank you to all who made it possible.