This afternoon we took 100 Year 1 and Year 2 students down the road to our neighbouring college, Hills Road Sixth Form, for a special event – 6th Form Question Time. This joint college event gave both Long Road and Hills Road students the opportunity to meet local Cambridge candidates who are standing in the upcoming general election; hear about their manifestos and ask questions on a variety of topics.
The event was extremely well attended by both Long Road and Hills Road students; not only by Year 2 students who will be able to vote int he December 2019 election, but also by Year 1 students who will be unable to vote but are taking a keen interest in politics at this time. We were also delighted that students studying a range of subjects attended the event, particularly those studying A Level Sociology and A Level Politics. In attendance was Daniel Zeichner, representing the Labour Party; Rod Cantrill, representing the Liberal Democrats; Jeremy Caddick, representing the Green Party; and Peter Daw, representing the Brexit Party. The event began with each candidate giving a 1-minute opening statement which outlined what their party stands for and key points of their manifestos. It was then over to the students who asked a range of interesting and thought-provoking questions.
The first question touched on the issue of punishment vs rehabilitation in the criminal justice system, raising the tragic deaths of two Cambridge students, Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones in the recent London Bridge Terror Attack. Daniel Zeichner spoke first saying that any attempt to undermine the Learning Together initiative (a programme focusing on the rehabilitation of criminals that both Jack and Saskia were involved in) would be appalling. Rod Cantrill then said that being tough on crime hasn’t worked historically and that prisons need to be recognised as places for rehabilitation, not for punishment. He claimed that the Lib Dems would invest funding in prisons for rehabilitation. Jeremy Caddick echoed these opinions saying that for the Green Party, rehabilitation is key. Peter Dawe raised the opinion that the focus should not just be on rehabilitation or punishment, but on deterrence and protection; saying that there are evil people who are unredeemable and that society needs protecting from these individuals.
The next question was surrounding the hot topic of Brexit, asking candidates if they believed there should be a second referendum. Rod Cantrill answered first saying that the Liberal Democrats have wanted a second referendum for the last 3 years and that they gain a majority government after the December 2019 election they will revoke article 50 and put the issue back to the people. Unsurprisingly, Peter Dawe took an opposing view explaining that the Brexit Party believes the EU institution is there to maintain the status quo and not to institute change; that they don’t believe the EU is capable of acknowledging the scale of the challenges that humanity faces. He encouraged the students to get involved in politics, saying it is up to the younger generation to change the world and that anyone who wants to save the planet needs to vote to destroy the EU. This answer raised many questions from the audience, with one student commenting that those in the audience today were unable to vote in the referendum, and it was largely and elderly population who voted to leave, so a recond referendum would enable the younger generation to make the change that the Brexit party in encouraging them to do.
Daniel Zeichner then took the floor explaining Labour believes a second referendum is a key issue, but all voters need to be respected and that those who voted leave should be asked what version of leave do you want? while the question for remainers is what possible path can we take to remain?. He then explained that is Labour win the general election there will be a second referendum within 6 months with voters given a choice of remain or a soft Brexit. The Labour party will then begin to address the real issues that have driven the problem of Brexit. Jeremy Caddick gave a similar answer, saying that it is austerity caused by a Conservative government that led people to vote to leave; the Green Party will work on healing the rifts in society of which Brexit is a symptom. A student then asked Jeremy the question, what about the people who voted to leave? to which he replied that leave voters need to acknowledge that peoples opinions and the facts and information available changes; if a second referendum was had then the outcome would be the real will of the people.
The final question asked focused on climate change, with candidates asked what are you doing to tackle climate change and protect the environment in Cambridgeshire? Jeremy Caddick said that in order to address the climate emergency we need to make life better for people. He said that in the last year there has been lots of talk of a new motorway linking Cambridge and Oxford, with 1 million houses being built along this route; this, the Green Party believe, is completely unsustainable for Cambridgeshire. Daniel Zeichner then told the audience that he has never been more excited about climate change policy than he is over the current green programme that Labour is putting forward. He explained that the Labour party will tackle climate change street by street making homes more energy-efficient. Finally, Rod Cantrill said that the Liberal Democrat policy on climate change is very clear; we need to move as fast as possible, while Brexit is life-changing, the climate crisis is life-threatening. He believes that in Cambridge we need a tram or light rail giving the people of Cambridge affordable and reliable public transport.