Last week I was invited to attend a Question Time session at Claydon High School for the Claydon and Thurleston Sixth Form. There were also representatives from the Lib-Dems, Tories and UKIP. UKIP are not a one issue party because they "know everything that is wrong with the country".
I thought it was a good session and it is especially valuable to listen to the views of young people because they don't talk to politicians much. There doesn't seem to be a mechanism to communicate with young adults - perhaps we need to go into schools more?
There were two main issues: border control and Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).
EMA is paid to 60 children at Thurleston & Claydon - on family incomes up to £30,ooo per year. It is a mean tested benefit aimed at helping children from poor families stay on at school for sixth form. The opposition is from people who don't get it and some are just above the threshold. The UKhas one of the highest drop out rates of any developed country, which is an alarming waste of talent. I fully support the EMA aims which are to smash school drop out rates at 16 and boost the aspiration and opportunities for those young people who have never viewed staying on at school or college as something for them.
Border control of immigrants was seen as a big issue and some of the Daily Express terms like "spongers", "swamping", "thousands of Polish gypsies" and "we give away benefits too easily" were trotted out. A vote was taken and all bar three called for thougher border controls. Is this view widely held? Immigrants are contributing massively to the British economy and British culture.
There were debates on other points too and all in all it was a good session. Hopefully I will be invited back!