Plymouth High School hear from Plymouth’s Potential MPs

By Lacey Mannell

With a general election coming up in December, the political scene in England this year has been, arguably, hectic. With Brexit extensions and re-elections, it’s hard to tell what’s to come of Britain by 2020.

The students of Plymouth High School for Girls were offered the chance to hear from five representatives from the main political parties: Ann Widdecome for the Brexit Party, Rebecca Smith for the Conservative Party, James Ellwood for the Green Party, Luke Pollard for Labour and Graham Reed for the Liberal Democrats. All of them either grew up in Plymouth or had ties. They gave us an idea about what they stand for, as well as the parties they’re representing, with talks of the NHS, the importance of voting, and issues of mental health and advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community.

Starting off with an introduction, the representatives gave us an idea about what they stand for, what they could do for politics, and their parties. Ann Widdecombe stressed the importance of a quick and clean Brexit, a clean up of politics and an NHS that’s fit for the future. Rebecca didn’t give any information on the Conservative party’s policy, yet encouraged people to vote for a woman, as the unveiling of the Nancy Astor statue was coming up. James Ellwood put emphasis on climate change (fitting for the Green Party), and Luke Pollard addressed the importance of Plymouth in politics, and the funding of education, health and transport, whilst getting a dig at Ann about his homosexuality (“there is nothing I need to be cured of”). Graham Reed expressed his worries for our future, the burning of gas and bottom-up politics.

Ann Widdecombe made it painfully clear that the NHS is a big priority for the Brexit Party from the start (perhaps to the point of exaggeration) and how most of the parties were remaining quiet and brushing it under the carpet. It was another issue that came up when regarding the news of the 451 page document released by Corbyn, stating the NHS will be on the table following Brexit. Widdecome insisted that that’s not true, and the NHS will very much not be on the table, however she suggested it might’ve been an original deal that has been scrapped since.

This seemed to be a favourable topic, as it raised tensions with Rebecca Smith, accusing Labour of lying about the Conservatives privatising the NHS, “Labour is trying to con the British public”, whilst Pollard shook his head in disagreement. The whole panel agreed that they didn’t want the NHS sold, but some weren’t convinced it wouldn’t happen under the Conservatives, mainly Luke Pollard and James Ellwood; who found their parties agreed with a lot of points brought up. Ellwood also called out the Brexit Party, speaking directly at Ann Widdecombe, stating that a party without a manifesto or with very few points must have something to hide or is not prepared to get into power.

A question of LGBTQ+ youth and mental health arose, with Smith highlighting the importance of talking to youth services, and how she met with Pride Plymouth, Pollard emphasising working with the Transgender communtiy, Ellwood the importance of youth services and trauma informed policing with regards to mental health, and Reed favouring equal treatment for mental and physical health – like the Lib Dem manifesto. Widdecombe’s focus shifted more towards mental health and how social media and results day pressures can affect teens negatively, not mentioning the LGBTQ+ community at all.

Another topic that came up was refugees. All the parties could agree that it’s our country’s responsibility to help refugees, with Pollard even encouraging an increase of young refugee numbers. Widdecombe mentioned the Geneva 1951 Convention, which she said means a refugee fearing prosecution must be offered shelter by the first safe country they reach. Her issue was that “In this country we are getting people, and I don’t exaggerate when I say by the boatload or the lorryload, who have been in other safe countries”. She was questioned by a student who said that a main route for refugees is through Italy, where people are being exploited in the mafia, and how can that be deemed safe? She shut the argument down by stating that Italy signed the Geneva Convention, so therefore is a safe country.

Each of the representatives ended with a closing statement following the questions. James Ellwood focused on climate change, Luke Pollard encouraged people to vote in an “election like no other” where Reed encouraged us to vote for our future. Rebecca Smith warned that we’d be in debt with labour for the rest of our lives, and Ann Widdecombe ended by stating that all the parties offer change, but the Brexit Party offers something completely new, and to “vote for a future in which Britain will have control of Britain”.

Now it’s up to Plymouth to decide their next MP, and England to decide what party they want in control for a new decade.

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