Hot topics debated at sixth form hustings


Candidates for the Barrow and Furness MP seat
Candidates for the Barrow and Furness MP seat
Hustings-timekeeper
Hustings-group

Five candidates competing for the Barrow and Furness MP seat went head to head for the student vote at a Question Time-style event at Barrow Sixth Form.

The prospective parliamentary candidates were invited to a hustings at the Rating Lane campus to face questions from an audience of over 100 students and staff.

The panel included Loraine Birchall (Liberal Democrat), Simon Fell (Conservative), Rob O’Hara (Green Party), Alan Piper (UKIP) and John Woodcock (Labour Co-operative). It was chaired by student Corey Birkett with Alex Walker keeping time and Isadora Lynch live tweeting from the event on the college’s Twitter account @b6fc.

The candidates faced questions ranging from how they would fight for a stronger police force, whether they supported grammar schools and if they would guarantee Trident.

Sam Dixon asked how they would appeal to young voters and Robyn Halcrow asked how they would support the farming community when EU subsidies were no longer available.

Some candidates agreed a lower voting age was needed while others said online voting could be something to consider to engage young people in politics. All the candidates urged students to use their vote for the future of their community and the country.

Government and Politics tutor Caroline Buckley said the sixth form students were very motivated to vote and excited to have this opportunity to have a say in a snap General Election.

“In college we have a lot of Corbyn-ites and also not-so-shy Tories so it is definitely going to be a tight race,” she said. “Our students know every vote will count in such a marginal constituency. We had a very strong turnout with all five candidates there and it was great that the students could hear from them first-hand and quiz them on their policies.”

A level student Ryan Evans, 18, is a first-time voter. He said: “It has been a really informative debate and has definitely helped me to decide the best party for me.”

The students are now holding their own General Election by casting votes in a traditional ballot box with the outcome delivered on Thursday.

Tutor Paul Henzel, who will be the presiding officer, said over 150 votes had been cast so far. “This will give them a glimpse of the voting process on – we are hoping for a good turnout.”

The event will be followed by a hustings for the business community tonight at Furness College’s Channelside campus organised by the Federation of Small Businesses starting at 6pm.