Why is this daunting for me, when I speak regularly in front of large audiences?
I think its because for once I was an educator, and was conscious that I needed to not just be political, but stick to my brief and make sure I covered the issues that I was meant to, as part of their ongoing understanding of politics. And I think because most of these kids were likely to be able to vote next year (if that’s when the general election is) and I might be the only Conservative to speak to them before then.
I have spoken in this school for 4 of the last 5 years and always seem to get a good session going.
The pupils listen to me explain my personal view of what makes me a Conservative, and what the Conservative party stands for; then we get to my favorite bit – the question and answer session which goes on for about 50 minutes, only stopping when the lunch break interrupts.
The questions I got, were really no different from the questions that adults ask when we knock on their doors, but are delivered in a more basic and honest manner; they really want to know the answers.
The questions range from – What is the Conservative Party going to do about the economy? What are our views on sentences passed by judges? What would we do differently to the Labour Government in our first term?
I have to say I love question and answer sessions like this and totally see why Cameron Direct has been received so well by people. There is something so very honest about a politician in a room answering all questions.
The session ends, and some of the pupils remain behind to chat with me and their teachers, taking the opportunity to ask more questions and take my email address so that they can get more detailed answers to some issues. I also get the chance to direct them towards a few Conservative websites (which I don’t think they were expecting!)
My only regrets about the session is why I am there at all – you see the school in question is not in Harlow. But the teacher who organises the visiting speaker at this school is a friend, and has had trouble getting representatives from the different political parties over the years. This year just the Conservatives and Liberals will be doing a pitch, as the Labour party have still not been able to confirm attendance, despite what my friend said was “a dozen emails and five phone calls”!
We often, as politicians, wonder why young people are not interested in us. Perhaps if more politicians were interested in young people it would go some way to improving their interest in politics.