Youngsters put the town’s candidates in the hot seat at sixth form hustings event

Northgate Sixth Form hosts its own Question Time event.

Northgate Sixth Form hosts its own Question Time event.

Northgate Sixth Form pupils grill Ipswich’s candidates at pre election debate

Ipswich's UKIP candidate, Maria Vigneau.

Ipswich's UKIP candidate, Maria Vigneau.

Ipswich’s parliamentary candidates were given the chance to sway the minds of first time voters at a sixth form hustings.

Four of the five parties were represented at Northgate Sixth Form this morning, with Conservative’s Ben Gummer absent on emergency parliamentary business.

The room of astute Year 12 and Year 13s were able to question the party politicians on their policies ahead of May’s General Election.

On the panel were David Ellesmere for Labour, UKIP’s Maria Vigneau, Rhodri Griffiths holding the post for Green’s Barry Broom and James Sandbach, standing in for Chika Akinwale of the Liberal Democrats.

The youngsters posed questions to the politicians about education, discrimination, nuclear power, climate change and voter apathy.

Before the debate began, the students were all asked to fill in a form to say who they were thinking about voting for, and at the end they were faced with the same question to see if the hustings had changed their minds.

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John Alexander, assistant head of Northgate Sixth Form, said: “I thought it was really good, we ran a mock election five years ago and I definitely have noticed this year that sixth form students really want to know more about politics.

“The idea of voter apathy doesn’t really exist, they want to know more about it which is why we set up the session, they are first time voters so it’s even more important.”

Firmly leading the session on the table among the candidates were Jemima Hindmarch, and Tom Pepper, both aged 18, who adopted a no-nonsense style, cutting the candidates off when their time to speak was up.

“A lot of people our age are not interesting in politics or haven’t had the opportunity to learn about it,” Tom said. “So it’s great to give them the opportunity.”

“I think it’s especially important to get people interesting when they are first time voters because it sets a habit so they will vote again.”

Nnenna Asuba, 16, said even though she will not be able to vote this year, she found it insightful to hear what the candidates stood for on a local level.

She added: “To be able to view our local politicians as people and their ability to make us laugh and cringe at the same time was great.”

One the event organisers, Kate Reynolds, 18, said it was important for the Year 13s to know who and what they were voting for.

However, she said hearing what the candidates had to say did not change her mind of whose box she would be ticking in two months time.

Ipswich’s current Torie MP Ben Gummer was called to an emergency meeting at the Commons early this morning, which he said did not leave him with enough time to find a replacement.

“I’m obviously very upset that I couldn’t be there because I was looking forward to it and I enjoy hustings events, I’m disappointed,” he added.