On Friday the 13th of May, students at New College Pontefract had the opportunity to quiz some politicians on the upcoming referendum regarding the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union.
The 4 guest panellists were:
Yvette Cooper (LAB, MP for the NPC Constituency),
Toby Horton (UKIP, former advisor to William Hague, defected to UKIP and stood in the seat for Thirsk and Malton in May 2015- where he was defeated by Kevin Hollinrake CON),
Richard Corbett (LAB, MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber),
Andrea Jenkyns (CON, MP for the Morley and Outwood constituency after succeeding Ed Balls in May 2015)
All four clearly demonstrated their passionate views in response to questions submitted by students following up to the event, however, it was clear from the live twitter hashtag and the atmosphere in the room that Richard Corbett had won the days event after proving some of the figures and ideologies set forward by the anti-EU panellists to be farcical. With the addition of the twitter hashtag #KingCorbett his victory was rather clear. Some students were however questioning the organisation of the event:
"why would you put a labour MEP and a tory MP on the same table?"(@HollyLouisee_) which proved to be a 'catalyst' for much "banter". Some also wondered as to why there was low diversity in political parties as the whole argument could not have been vocalised.
Yvette Cooper as usual was on her toes seeing this as an opportunity to gain a few extra votes. Her answers all linked back to how remaining in the EU benefits young people and how a Brexit could be disastrous for this and the succeeding generations. She also highlighted that even though it can be difficult, amendments can still be made to allow UK favoured laws to be passed even after EU restrictions- such as the widely spoken of, tampon tax.
Toby Horton could easily have been mistaken for a chemistry teacher after his apparent obsession with the word 'catalyst'-mentioned five times during the short event. According to him, a Brexit would prove to be a 'catalyst' for reform of the EU. Now, many students and other panellists got a little bit confused here as the UKIP MP hopeful was basically saying if we leave the EU it'll reform and 'become better'. Ok. So according to Toby, we should leave the single market and watch it expand from the outlines, watch how EU GDP continues to grow and allow the UK to wither in poverty, inevitable infringement on human rights and the country's decimation as a whole. Great. Toby also told us the date of the referendum- the "24th June" so to all supporters of UKIP, don't forget to go vote on the 24th as every vote counts!
#KingCorbett as he quickly became known, stole the show after his "witty banter". Apparently the fact that his "tie [was] funky fresh" also helped him gain a few points on the board. His answers were coherent and straight to the point, however, his opinion of Andrea Jenkyns quickly became apparent. Anything that was vocalised by the Conservative member was rapidly shot down by Corbett who quickly attempted to 'correct' the Rt. Hon member for Morley. The students in the room on the Brexit side of the fence however, saw an instant opportunity to fire back at Corbett after he said that there was a "Civil War" within the Conservative Party surrounding the issue, their response was surrounding the alleged anti-Semitic affiliations within the Labour Party considering the recent suspensions of Ken Livingston and Naz Shah- proving slight hypocrisy. This however, did in no way hinder Corbett and he continued to come out on top.
Andrea Jenkyns presented herself in the image of the late Margaret Thatcher after highlighting herself as being a part of a "nation of shopkeepers" and continued to keep the small businesses in mind throughout the proceedings. Some however, appeared to not be huge fans of small businesses and after the MP had made derogatory comments towards certain low cost high street shops one student had something to say- "pound shops are the **** why are the tories slating them" (@ellenphantstone). Ms Jenkyns also used the highly controversial figure of £50bn which was not welcomed by the Labour MEP who explained that this figure is inaccurate and when looked at from a wider picture, we get more back than from what we put in.
On behalf of all students, I would like to thank the College for organising this fun-filled event and getting more people aware and involved, and after only using the word 'catalyst' four times in this post, I sincerely hope you still get the picture.