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General Election hustings inspire first-time voters

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Top left photo, from let to right: Daniel Zeichner (Labour), Tony Juniper (Green Party), Julian Huppert (Liberal Democrat), Philippe Harari (Politics teacher and Chair), Nick Hillman (Conservative), Peter Burkinshaw (UKIP) and Martin Booth (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition). Also standing, but not at the hustings, is Old Holborn (Independent)

There was a buzz of excitement in the college hall as some 300 students waited for their chance to put the Cambridge constituency candidates on the spot.

The event kicked off with a two-minute ‘sales pitch’ by each candidate, with Politics teacher Philippe Harari on hand to ensure fair play. The candidates then took questions from the floor.

Top of the list of questions were tuition fees, funding for universities and education in general. Students went on to ask about the decommissioning of Trident, ID cards and the Digital Economy Act. The theme then moved onto the economy: how to reduce the deficit and whether the nationalisation of certain banks might be reversed. Finally, there were heated debates about the likelihood, and implications, of a hung parliament.

After an hour of intensive, but good-humoured, debate, students had an opportunity to question candidates face-to-face, with some discussions continuing for a further 30 minutes.

Candidates commented on how well our students had responded to them – and expressed delight at the number of students who had attended: a good indication that both students able to vote for the first time at this election, and slightly younger ones who will be able to vote in the next round of local elections, were showing a mature interest in the political process.

“I was very pleased with the way that the event went,” says Philippe. “Our Computer Services and Estates departments, along with college tutors, all contributed to what proved to be a highly-professional debate. The enthusiasm shown by our students is an encouraging indication that the democratic process in this country is alive and well.”