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Heidi Allen MP Q&A session

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“It’s game playing, we’ve got to stop doing that, we’ve got to be straight. When we vote on things we’ve got to vote on things that matter”
Heidi Allen on current politics.
Q&A session Long Road Sixth Form College.

This afternoon Heidi Allen MP visited the Long Road Sixth Form College LRC for what proved to be a lively and interesting Question and Answer session with staff and students.

Heidi was introduced by Politics teacher Shaun Townsend, who led the afternoon session. Heidi began with a short opening statement on her background, running a small business, and her journey into politics; ending with why she left the Conservative Party and joined The Independent Group, or ‘the Tiggers’, stating at the heart of what she wants is everyone’s voice to be heard. She then opened the floor to take questions on a range of topics from the audience; made up of over 150 support staff, academic staff and students.

The first question, from a Politics student, asked Heidi whether she had talked to her constituents, who voted for her as a Conservative, about her decision to leave the Conservative Party. Heidi replied that her decision, and the reasons behind this decision, has been made public in her monthly magazine, across her website and she even gave a talk to the public last Saturday at Long Road Sixth Form College. Impressively, she has also responded to all the emails sent to her by constituents; of which 41 were unhappy with her decision while over 2,000 were positive reactions.

Questions naturally focused on Brexit, with one student asking what Heidi believes should happen to Northern Ireland if the United Kingdom does leave the European Union. Heidi responded that the reason she could not support and vote for Priminister Theresa May’s deal is down to the issue of the Northern Irish border; stating that “we must fight tooth and nail to keep a hard border away.”

The question was then asked, “what gives Remain the right to overturn a referendum that Leave won and have a second referendum?” This was met by some murmurings of both agreement and disagreement across the audience as Heidi explained she believed a second referendum would be the most democratic and fair way of proceeding. Likening a second referendum, or ‘People’s Vote’, to informed consent Heidi said that as it is now known what a Leave deal and a future outside the EU would look like for the UK, a second referendum gives the public a chance to be sure of the future they want.

A student then raised the question of “how will the Independent group deal with the void created in society after Brexit, whether we leave the EU or not? ” Heidi firmly stated that she personally believes we should remain in the EU, or maintain a close relationship if Brexit does take place. She emphasised that within her constituency, South Cambridgeshire, there are a high number of EU citizens, without whom the South Cambridgeshire society could not function effectively; and reminded those EU citizens in the audience that they are important and needed in our communities. She then encouraged all staff and students to “make everyone feel welcome in our community” in the hopes that “this will heal the void created in society.”

Another student voiced their concern for the growing influence and popularity of political figures such as Donald Trump and Nigel Farage, asking Heidi why she thinks this is happening? She replied that she believes the influence and popularity of such figures is evidence of the failure of large traditional parties.

Head of Social Sciences department, Nicole Tampin, then asked Heidi a question which is often at the centre of many staff discussions; “what about funding cuts in education?” explaining that she feels these cuts are currently being swept under the carpet and not looked at in enough detail; that our current students were not old enough to vote in the referendum, even though Brexit will directly impact them, and that she feels that we are about to fail these students and younger generations. Heidi agreed that many issues, such as education funding, are not being looked at enough due to Brexit. She said that government spending priorities need to be reviewed and that the Independent Group want to base funding on evidence, in this case, they would look in detail at the individual costs schools and colleges face.

With the current political uncertainty, one student asked Heidi “how successful might the Tiggers be at the next general election?”. Heidi gave an honest answer saying that if a general election was called tomorrow they might be wiped out; each of the Independent group members had put their careers on the line and taken a risk. She hopes that a general election won’t be called until 2022 and that we can get through Brexit first. If this is the case, Heidi said that if the Independent Group can “prove and develop the right manifesto, behaviour and values then we have a good chance of doing well”. She explained they are working closely with the Liberal Democrats, working together towards central, middle ground, sensible politics.

Heidi also explained that the core values of the Independent Group are collaborative working, fairness, proudly global, pro-EU, evidence-based policies and honesty. She then invited staff and students to think about and let her know any ideas for names for the new party as the word ‘Independent’ can’t be used.

We would like to say a huge thank you to Heidi for spending the afternoon with us today, to Shaun for leading the session and to all the staff and students who attended! Click here to see all the photos from the Heidi Allen MP Q&A session