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Toot Hill School in Bingham hosts hustings for Newark constituency General Election Candidates from Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, and Reform UK





Election candidates aimed to inspire young people as they answered question from students on a school visit this week.

This week, Toot Hill School in Bingham welcomed candidates from four of the biggest political parties currently driving the narrative of this General Election, to a closed question and answer session exclusively for students and staff.

It was organised as part of ongoing elections themed classes and tutor sessions across the school in the run up to polling day next Thursday (July 4).

Four candidates took part in the debate at Toot Hill School; Labour’ Saj Ahmad, the Conservative Robert Jenrick, Reform’s Robert Palmer, and David Watts of the Liberal Democrats. Chaired by the head of the history and politics department Jack Law.
Four candidates took part in the debate at Toot Hill School; Labour’ Saj Ahmad, the Conservative Robert Jenrick, Reform’s Robert Palmer, and David Watts of the Liberal Democrats. Chaired by the head of the history and politics department Jack Law.

Sam Evans, history and politics teacher, said: “We feel it is incredibly important to instil an appreciation and respect of elections at a young age — that is why we have organised this hustings event.

“We wanted to give our young people an opportunity to be involved and shine a light on their voices.”

Around 60 students from the ages of 11 to 16 stayed behind after school to engage in the political hustings and put forward their questions to candidates.

Four candidates took part in the event; Labour’ Saj Ahmad, the Conservative Robert Jenrick, Reform’s Robert Palmer, and David Watts of the Liberal Democrats.

The hustings was chaired by head of the history and politics department Jack Law.

(Pictured from left; David Watts, Liberal Democrat; Saj Ahmad, Labour; Jack Law, head of history and politics at Toot Hill; Robert Jenrick, Conservative; and Robert Palmer, Reform UK).Toot Hill school in Bingham holds Question Time event with Newark Election Candidates. Photo: Toot Hill School.
(Pictured from left; David Watts, Liberal Democrat; Saj Ahmad, Labour; Jack Law, head of history and politics at Toot Hill; Robert Jenrick, Conservative; and Robert Palmer, Reform UK).Toot Hill school in Bingham holds Question Time event with Newark Election Candidates. Photo: Toot Hill School.

During the hour long Q&A, candidates were asked about trust in politics, diversity, their plans for schools and how they would appeal to young people.

But a more personal question stood out, where each of the candidates aimed to inspire the youth to engage with politics after being asked how they got to where they are now.

Saj Ahmad, said: “I went to quite an ordinary comprehensive school in Nottingham. I was born and raised in Nottinghamshire. I'm very proud to be from this part of the country and very excited about the opportunity to represent this area.

“But one of the things that struck me when I was at school, and college and going off into the world of work was that there weren't very often people who looked and sounded like me in positions of power.

“Quite often times, it's just people who look like the members of this panel, you know, not people who looked and sounded on me. And it was very difficult.

“It was very difficult for some of the people that I went to school with, who were really intelligent, really talented, but just didn't get the opportunities in life.”

Over the years Ms Ahmad began engaging in community work, coaching her peers with university and job applications, before later setting up a company to support to people from marginalised backgrounds to get access to nature.

In later life she helped establish a community network within the NHS to supported women facing discrimination in the workplace and problems around getting jobs and progressing.

She added: “I realised that for 20 years or so I was actually doing politics, but I wasn't a politician.

“I think it's really important to remember that politics isn't just being on stage and being an MP or being a councillor — everything is politics.

“And I realised, the people who were doing politics aren't necessarily the people who should be doing politics, it should be ordinary people.

“I decided to take my first step into proper politics, if you want to call it that, when I stood to be a councillor and was elected council in the city.

“My message to you is that it doesn't matter where you come from, what your socio-economic background is, what race or religion you are, whether you're a man or woman — you're all able to participate in political life in one way or the other.”

(Pictured from left; David Watts, Liberal Democrat; Saj Ahmad, Labour; Jack Law, head of history and politics at Toot Hill; Robert Jenrick, Conservative; and Robert Palmer, Reform UK).Toot Hill school in Bingham holds Question Time event with Newark Election Candidates. Photo: Toot Hill School.
(Pictured from left; David Watts, Liberal Democrat; Saj Ahmad, Labour; Jack Law, head of history and politics at Toot Hill; Robert Jenrick, Conservative; and Robert Palmer, Reform UK).Toot Hill school in Bingham holds Question Time event with Newark Election Candidates. Photo: Toot Hill School.

David Watts, said: “I had a very privileged upbringing because my dad was a diplomat.

“I lived in Malawi which is one of the poorest countries in the world, and so you see real, genuine, very hard poverty there — even as a child that struck me as being really, really unfair.

“I've always had this real ambition to make the world a fairer place, and that's what liberals are about.

“But you can only do that by being involved. You can't achieve that, just by arguing from the sidelines.”

Mr Watts worked as a civil servant before becoming a school governor as his gateway into politics.

He added: “Within two years I was a local councillor and I've been one ever since — about 24 years — bar a four year gap where I thought ‘I'm going to stop this now’ and then discovered, I couldn't stay away from it.”

He then issued a challenge to the students to hold politicians to account if they say they will do something and don’t deliver.

Robert Palmer said he was new to politics and was standing to offer something different.

He said: “Standing for smaller parties is very different to the mainstream parties, where they have many, many positions where there is no difference between them.

“They all want to be part of the European Convention on Human Rights. They all want spend fortunes on green ideologies, that are very unproven. They all want spend fortunes with foreign aid.

“We need another option — it doesn't matter if you vote Liberal, Labour or Conservatives you will be getting more of the same.”

Toot Hill school in Bingham holds Question Time event with Newark Election Candidates. Photo: Toot Hill School.
Toot Hill school in Bingham holds Question Time event with Newark Election Candidates. Photo: Toot Hill School.

Robert Jenrick, said: “I got into politics in my early 20s because I like to represent people and to take up causes.

“I think that is ultimately that is at the heart of being a member of parliament, you've got to like people.

“You've got to be interested in people's lives, the issues that they face, you've got to want to take up in justices, when you see them.

“Whether that's small things, such as someone coming to my MP surgery and trying to fix a problem, helping make their lives better, ot whether it's something bigger, like trying to fix something that's really holding back our area like education.”

“The judgement that I made quite early on when I was that I didn't want to just be another person who was reading the newspapers, looking at stuff online, reading the news, and complaining. I actually wanted to make a difference.

“That’s the great thing about being being involved in politics in any capacity, whether it's standing as a councillor, joining a political party, or standing for parliament, is it gives you the opportunity to make your voice heard, to make a contribution to our local or our national life, and to try to change things for the better.

“Whenever I've been to the school or met young people here and being around the town, I've always encouraged people getting involved in politics, because it is your opportunity to be heard, to make a difference, and to try and move this area and the country in the right direction.”

Toot Hill school in Bingham holds Question Time event with Newark Election Candidates. Photo: Toot Hill School.
Toot Hill school in Bingham holds Question Time event with Newark Election Candidates. Photo: Toot Hill School.

Following the debate, students reflected on the experience.

Lydia Bevis was impressed by the event, saying: “I felt as if it were an exclusive opportunity that I don’t believe I could have received at many other schools in the local area.

Year 8 student, Marcus Appleby, agreed saying: “I think that the panel was good at encouraging freedom of speech and opinion in our school by giving us the opportunity to listen to local candidates and how they got into politics.

“And helped many people understand the different party philosophies and the way they operated so they could form their own opinions on how they align themselves politically.

Year 7 student Seraphina Cash, who asked a question about diversity, agreed: “I enjoyed the event and feel that it was an exciting opportunity to learn more about politics and will be very interested to see who wins this election.

“Personally, I feel my question was answered reasonably and seemingly quite honestly by all the candidates.”

Evelyn Turner, a Year 12 student, was disappointed that her question directed at Robert Jenrick had been ignored by the candidate, but enjoyed the hustings overall.

She said: “I think it was an informative event. I think having a range of candidates was useful as we got to listen to people who we may not agree with at all.”



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