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The Corporation

Posted: 06/12/19

Students quiz Ashfield and Mansfield parliamentary hopefuls

With the General Election just days away, students at West Nottinghamshire College had the chance to quiz parliamentary candidates for Ashfield and Mansfield – considered to be two of the country’s key battlegrounds when voters head to the polls on Thursday 12 December.

  • Parliamentary candidates (from left) Sid Pepper, Ben Bradley (back), Stephen Harvey, Sonya Ward, Lee Anderson, Rose Woods, Jason Zadrozny and Rebecca Wain pictured with A-level students at the political debate.
  • Ashfield and Mansfield parliamentary candidates answering questions from A-level students.
  • Election hopefuls on the Question Time-style panel.
  • Lee Anderson engages with students in the college's atrium.
  • Students quiz Rebecca Wain over the lunchtime period.
  • Rose Woods in discussion with learners at the hustings.
  • College staff quiz Jason Zadrozny about his policies.
  • Ben Bradley in conversation with students after the formal debate.
  • Stephen Harvey gets his point over to students at the bustling lunchtime hustings.
  • Students listen to what Sid Pepper has to say in the run-up to the election.
  • Sonya Ward outlines her policies to students over the lunchtime period.

Around 100 students on various A-level programmes packed out a lecture theatre at the Derby Road campus as audience members for a lively political debate in the style of BBC television’s Question Time.

Chaired by head of the college’s A-levels department, Matt Ridgill, the hour-long discussion – also attended by principal Andrew Cropley, chair of governors Sean Lyons, and tutors – saw students pose their questions to a panel of candidates hoping to become the next MPs for the Ashfield and Mansfield constituencies.

On the panel were Ashfield parliamentary hopefuls Lee Anderson from the Conservative Party, Rebecca Wain from the Liberal Democrats, Rose Woods from the Green Party, and Jason Zadrozny of Ashfield Independents, and Mansfield candidates Ben Bradley from the Conservative Party, independent candidates Stephen Harvey and Sid Pepper, and Sonya Ward from the Labour Party.

The event, on Wednesday 4 December, saw the candidates respond to a range of questions posed by politics students on topics ranging from the EU referendum and social mobility to knife crime.

They were asked how they would vote on a Brexit deal, whether young people in Ashfield and Mansfield have to leave the area after their studies in order to secure the best employment opportunities, and what they think the causes of knife crime are and how they would tackle the problem.

After the debate, the candidates spent the lunchtime period engaging with students and staff in the college’s main dining and social area.

A-level biology, chemistry, physics and maths student Pat Swidnik, said: “Although I never previously had a passion for politics, I found the debate very interesting as I’ve realised that every vote matters.

“While party leaders get a lot of media attention on their policies, it was interesting to see that local candidates may have a different interpretation of how these affect the area.

“Some candidates proved to be better at understanding the problems and local issues than others, and this may affect my vote in the future.”

Fellow A-level student Chloe Kelly, who studies law, psychology and sociology, said: “The debate was very informative and I enjoyed hearing the candidates’ views on various topics.

“Hearing what they had to say has reaffirmed some of my political views and opinions, and given me a better understanding of what they stand for – even those whose policies I haven’t really agreed with in the past.

“It has also allowed me to understand why it’s so important to vote.”

Matt Ridgill, head of A-levels, said: “It was great to see so many students engaged in the discussion and I was particularly proud of the politics students for posing some challenging and thought-provoking questions.

“Although many of our students have strong views on things such as the environment and education, it was interesting that they chose to quiz the candidates on topics such as Brexit, the local economy, and law and order, which shows their awareness of a wide range of political issues.”