Ilkley Grammar School sixth form student Zak Rafael reports on a hustings held at the school ahead of June's general election.
ILKLEY Grammar School held the first General Election hustings in West Yorkshire on Friday, May 12.
Five candidates for the Keighley constituency had the chance to address sixth form students in a Question Time style event. Kris Hopkins (Conservative), John Grogan (Labour), Paul Latham (UKIP) and Ros Brown (Green) had spoken to students before as the candidates in 2015 and were joined this year by first time candidate Matt Walker who is standing for the Liberal Democrats.
The hustings had a plentiful turnout of some 350 students, all eager to hear the opinions of the potential MPs. A great deal of the sixth form have turned 18 and thus will have the opportunity to vote in the election, and were encouraged to do so by the candidates. Also in attendance were the Ilkley Grammar School student election candidates. The school holds its own election in which pupils from the younger years have the chance to engage in politics.
In the 2017 Ofsted inspection, Ilkley Grammar School achieved ‘Outstanding’ in all areas, which is the highest grading a school can receive; the candidates each acknowledged that this achievement was reflected in the calibre of questions that were being asked. The first of these was a controversial question that had been previously asked at the 2015 school hustings which, and has thus become a student favourite. “What is one issue that you disagree with your party on?”. Kris Hopkins said that he disagreed with forest privatisation, John Grogan disagreed with the Iraq War and subsequently voted against it at the time, Paul Latham disagreed with an NHS cap on migrant workers, Ros Brown alluded to a pro-life stance on abortion whilst Matt Walker doesn’t want to see an end to NHS privatisation claiming that it requires ‘limited intervention’ from the private sector to be properly sustained.
A further question that was enjoyed by the crowd was, “If you were going to vote for another party which would it be?”. Kris Hopkins shared that if he were an American citizen he would have voted for Hilary Clinton in 2016. John Grogan said he would vote for the Greens. Paul Latham claimed the last party he voted for was Labour, but would not reveal his hypothetical intentions on June 8th. Ros Brown would vote for Labour, and Matt Walker would vote Green. Upon being asked what each of the candidates would do for young people it was unanimously agreed by the five that they supported the voting age to be lowered to 16. Kris Hopkins cited the 2014 Scottish independence referendum as the point in which he changed his mind on the matter.
Overall, the hustings were a success and thoroughly enjoyed by the students who were also given the opportunity to meet and greet the candidates afterwards. A strong message was put forward to the students to register to vote before the deadline, 22nd May. To do so, go to:www.gov.uk/register-to-vote