Harlow College hosted an Election Hustings last week to put forward ideas to win the votes of the younger people of the town. All five parliamentary candidates attended, focussing on education, housing, career opportunities and Brexit.
Hannah Clare. representing the Green Party urged voters to ‘stand up for the future’ She spoke of introducing rent controls, abolishing letting fees and scraping age related wage bands.
Mark Gough from UKIP stressed it was an ‘important election’ expressing concern for the state of the NHS and pledging ‘more than 11 billion for the service. Students were interested to hear the commitment to abolishing university fees for courses supporting key skills in specific areas such as nursing, science and technology.
Conservative candidate Robert Halfon emphasised his investment in education and apprenticeships and talked of the ‘ladder of opportunity’ starting with careers guidance. He said that the profile and prestige of apprenticeships needs to be raised as they ‘could be as good if not better than a degree as you earn while you learn’. Mr Halfon told the young audience that he could not offer a package of ‘free goodies’ because of the state of the economy and the many demands on the countries money. However, he could deliver a positive message by investing in young people through new approaches in apprenticeships and apprentice degrees which will be on offer at Harlow College this September.
Phillip Waite from the Labour Party told the students he would be looking after the future with an overhaul of the childcare system and a commitment to ‘stop and reverse the proposed cuts to schools’. He said university should be free for all and changes to the minimum wage should see a £10 an hour rate for everyone regardless of age.
Liberal Democrat candidate Geoffrey Seef urged the students ‘to vote for an open and tolerant society with peace within Europe and prosperity’. He firmly stated that there was only one issue, Brexit. declaring ‘this is going to affect your lives and your children forever. It will also affect the programmes of both labour and Tory, whoever get elected, to do what they say they will do if we have a full-scale Brexit because believe me the money will not be there and we will have a whole load of problems’. He went on to say that Brexit means ‘uncertainty, disinvestment and devaluation which is a threat to your peace and the peace and prosperity to us here and in Europe.’ He said the need is for renegotiation and then to ask the country to decide with clearly given information.
Student Emily Cooper who is voting for the first time said the debate ‘opened my eyes to the smaller parties who I had previously disregarded’. 22-year-old Charlotte Paige said the she probably wouldn’t change her voting tactics but ‘it was interesting to see the people behind the names and proposed policies and I might now research all the manifestos more closely’
There was an opportunity for questions which covered a range of topics including university fees and the local hospital. Students were also interested to hear the views of the candidates on lowering the voting age which was welcomed by Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Green party but the Conservatives and UKIP remained content with the current age of 18.