10th December 2019
Ahead of the big day, St Brendan’s Sixth Form College in Brislington hosted their own hustings debate this week. The event enabled the young adults to grill the four candidates infront of them, in an attempt to get a clearer picture of what their future could look like.
The four candidates
The College, an educational home to over 1700 16 – 19 year olds, welcomed Bristol East candidates Kerry McCarthy, of Labour; Nick Coombes, of the Lib Dems; Conan Connolly, of the Green and Tim Page of the Brexit Party, for an afternoon of challenging questions and debate*. With the majority of the audience being 18 years of age, the candidates spoke to a new generation of voters and were forced to answer some challenging questions.
The hustings echoed the discourse of the nation, and Brexit was of course the overriding topic of conversation and debate. In their opening statements, Ms McCarthy, Mr Coombes and Mr Connolly also spoke about the ways in which their parties plan to combat the climate emergency and further statements were also made by all parties in regards to public services and transport issues.
When questions were opened to the floor, a sea of hands shot straight into the air. Questions regarding knife crime and mental health were asked of all four candidates, whilst some students spoke to particular members directly. Mr Page, firm supporter of a no deal Brexit, took many challenging questions from the young adults and was asked to comment on how his party will protect the working class and what the Brexit Party would do for LGBTQ+ rights.
Mr Coombes of the Lib Dems was challenged with explaining how, aside from their stance on Brexit, his party is different to that of the Conservatives, whilst Ms McCarthy was asked to comment on hostility and democracy within politics.
As well as feelings of apprehension coming from the young adults regarding Brexit, it was clear that their other overriding concern was the climate emergency and the consistent and rapid deterioration of the planet. The topic divided the candidates quite clearly; a sharp intake of breath echoed when Mr Page stated that he “doesn’t believe there is a climate emergency”. Meanwhile Ms McCarthy explained her deep concerns and explained that the “planet is not there to plunder”. It was Green candidate Mr Connolly who linked the benefits of the environment with mental health, whilst Mr Coombes explained how the Lib Dems are aiming for 80% renewable energy by 2030.
The young voters left the debate feeling even more empowered by their new responsibility as 18 year olds. As a new era and dramatic changes face the country, the fate and future of these young adults lies in the outcome of Thursdays vote.
*Conservative candidate Sarah Codling was invited to the event but declined