On Monday 25 November 2019, The Sixth Form at Harrogate Grammar School hosted a hustings for the election candidates representing the four parties contesting the Harrogate and Knaresborough constituency.
- Kieron Thomas George – Yorkshire Party
- Andrew Hanson Jones – Conservative
- Judith Mary Rogerson – Liberal Democrat
- Mark James Sewards – Labour (represented by Harrogate Grammar School Year 13 student Tyler Reeton)
The event involved each candidate speaking for 3 minutes setting out their priorities. Head Students, Joe Nichols and Phoebe Kyriakopoulos, co-ordinated the session very well and ensured that a range of questions were asked of the candidates.
Joe and Phoebe said:
It was fantastic to have the wide and varying views and opinions of our school community addressed by the candidates for the Harrogate and Knaresborough seat in the upcoming General Election. The questions asked were very insightful which tested the candidates and resulted in a successful session.
Questioning was rigorous and ranged from domestic fiscal policy to foreign policy and the previous conduct and comments of party leaders. There were, unsurprisingly, some questions relating to Brexit – as well as student finance. The issues raised provoked much discussion after the event as well.
The hustings were intentionally held on Monday before the ‘register-to-vote’ deadline to enable the students to realise the importance of registering and voting in the election itself.
Lucy Vincent, Deputy Director of Sixth Form, said:
It is really important for young people to exercise their right to vote. By organising a hustings event, the candidates were able to speak directly to our students, enabling them to make a more informed decision on 12th December. Lively debate ensued, with discussions continuing long after the event.
Harrogate Grammar School have said that they are very grateful to all participants for helping to contribute to such an enjoyable event and for taking time out of their busy schedules to make sure that the event took place.
Andrew Jones, Conservative Party said:
I enjoy hustings events and I particularly enjoyed this one. It was a lively meeting with some tough questions from the Grammar School students. I hope students felt I answered in a straightforward and honest way. I think politicians who say one thing in a local meeting to get a round of applause and then stand on a national manifesto which says the opposite are the kind of thing that brings politics into disrepute.
That’s why I enjoy these events. It gives the public a chance to strip away politician-speak and get to the nub of the issue and to assess the character of the candidates. I am doing two more hustings during this election but am available to answer any questions the public want me to answer any time. I have tried to be as available as possible to do that over the nine years I have been the local MP and the previous seven years as a local councillor.
Kieron George, Yorkshire Party, said:
The Hustings went very well, and it was great seeing students engaged in the political process. These students are at the start of their political participation, and it would be my greatest joy to bring them along in the Yorkshire Party’s journey.
Hustings are always going to be tricky for a party like mine. The other parties attending all have well-known policies and controversies, so it’s much easier to target them with questions. And there’s no debate among us candidates for giving Yorkshire its fair share, so it’s much easier for them to engage each other’s divisions.
I’ve conveyed the Yorkshire Party’s common sense stance and made people aware of the party and its policies. The Yorkshire Party has grown every election and even matched Labour for votes in Harrogate during the EU election this year. We’re in a transition period where we need to start showing people that only the Yorkshire Party is in the position to deliver on promises made to the people of Yorkshire.
Judith Rogerson, Liberal Deomcrats, said:
I’m very grateful to the staff and students at Harrogate Grammar School for organising the hustings this morning. We were asked some tough but very insightful questions. It was great to see so many young people who are really engaged with the issues in this General Election.
Mark Sewards, Labour, said:
While I was unable attend the Harrogate Grammar School hustings as I was teaching, I did send a statement and a student representative spoke on my behalf. I’ve attached a statement in response to the hustings event touching on some of the issues I would have liked to have covered and why I believe it’s important that young people engage in the democratic process.
I would be very happy to attend any future hustings events. The only other planned hustings I’m aware of is the Zero Carbon Harrogate hustings on Wednesday 4 December.