A Level Politics Student Conference
10 January 2019 - All
On 3 December, the LVI A Level Politics class travelled to Westminster Central Hall to participate in a student Politics conference. At the height of the Brexit debate, 2018 could be seen as the prime year to be studying British politics, resulting in a myriad of politicians making an appearance to advocate their views.
Initially we heard from John Bercow, the Speaker for the House of Commons. As entailed by his role of mediator, his political views must be neutral. He spoke animatedly, introducing the course of the day and what we should hope to achieve. He gestured to the microphones positioned around the hall, encouraging us to ask the politicians questions of our own.
The next speaker was Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats. His proposals were not received with huge enthusiasm; his ideas seemed out of date and he lacked control over the audience’s attention. In a time of political turmoil, the LibDems do not hold enough power to make a difference.
Up next was the intensely anticipated Nigel Farage, who seemed to be obviously disliked by the majority of those present. He provoked regular outbursts of indignation regarding his opinions on Brexit, while simultaneously criticising other politicians such as David Cameron, claiming that he ‘didn’t seem to do much anymore’. A proposal that caught the audience’s attention, however, was that Proportional Representation could help to achieve a bigger range of views in Westminster and therefore connect with the electorate. ‘Young people just don’t vote’ he declared, ‘because what is the point? Why vote when you know the result already?’
One of the Labour party’s clever strategies is the way they appeal to young people. By centring their manifesto on abolishing university fees, they attract huge amounts of attention from students. Chuka Umunna, a pro-Remain, young, Labour politician, had the audience captivated almost immediately. He distanced himself from Jeremy Corbyn and justified Labour policies to a group that are, arguably, the target market. A less successful Labour speech was given by Emily Thornberry. When questioned by an audience member on Corbyn’s links to the IRA, she grew irate and defensive, diminishing the audience’s respect for her and her views.
Philip Lee, who recently resigned as a Conservative minister, explained that the stance taken by the Conservative party regarding Brexit was, for him, a conflict of interest – he didn’t believe that leaving the European Union would be beneficial to his children or family and therefore could not support it. He stepped down from his position as an act of protest against the decisions being made within his party.
The final speaker was Jacob Rees-Mogg, well-known as a potential threat to Theresa May’s leadership within the Conservative party. He discussed his reasoning behind his letter of no confidence, criticising May’s approach both to Brexit negotiations and to leading Britain’s political scene. Rees–Mogg was convincing in his arguments, however he received very little positive feedback from the audience due to his condescending and critical attitude towards Mrs May.
Overall, the trip gave us a new insight into politics and the way that politicians work. We were exposed to different views, more often than not from within the same party. This was most interesting of all, as we got to understand the extent to which opinions can fluctuate, while still being based on the same manifesto.