Durham and Stockton students question parliamentary candidates

The Durham city candidate debate panel

Students in Durham and Stockton have attended two local parliamentary candidate debates over the course of two evenings, to hear from the Durham city and Stockton South candidates on what they and their party plans to do, if elected in the next General Election.

Around 200 students attended the events which were organised by Durham Students’ Union in partnership with the Union’s Politics and International Relations Society, Stockton Riverside College, East Durham College Students’ Union and New College Durham.

The format of the event gave students the opportunity to put their own questions to the candidates. These could be submitted in advance and the floor was also opened up on both evenings to allow students to ask their own questions directly.

Leigh Spanner, Academic Affairs Officer at the Students’ Union, comments: “It was fantastic to see so many students showing an interest in the forthcoming election and using the event as real opportunity to help them make up their mind on who they want to vote for. The audience at both events asked some great questions around topics such education, the EU and immigration and the economy.”

The events were attended by candidates representing the Conservative Party, the Green Party, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and also by the two independent candidates for Durham city and one independent candidate for Stockton South.

The debates were also open to members of the public, who were welcomed along to hear what the candidates had to say.

Ms Spanner continues “It was fantastic to organise these events which were not only useful to our students, but that were also useful to the local community. Both events were well attended by local residents and were of course organised in partnership with the local further education colleges. We look forward to continuing to develop these relationships in the future with more joint projects.”

Among those keen to hear what the candidates had to say was 21-year-old Durham University Medicine student, Ellie Mott, originally from Redditch.

Now living in Stockton, she said “There have been lots of debates on TV and I have seen those, but I wanted to know how it is going to make a difference locally.

“Hearing what the candidates had to say has been interesting. It has reinforced feelings that I had before.”

Also among the audience was Marc Hignell, a 23-year-old support worker now living in Stockton.

Hoping to return to education he said: “This sort of debate is a good idea as it gives students the chance to ask direct questions on issues that affect them.”

The candidate debates headed up a final voter registration push on the 20 April, by all the partners involved in organising the debates. They coordinated activities in Durham and Stockton to encourage students to register to vote. This was the final day that people could register to vote in the forthcoming General Election.

The Durham City event took place on 20 April in Durham Students’ Union and was attended by

  • Chair: Professor Jim Ridgeway, Durham University
  • Helen Goodman MP, (Labour)
  • Rebecca Coulson (Conservatives)
  • Craig Martin (Liberal Democrats)
  • Jonathan Elmer (Green Party)
  • Jon Collings (Independent)
  • John Marshall (Independent)

The Stockton South debate took place at Queen’s Campus on 21 April and was attended by:

  • Chair: Carl Mustill, Stockton Riverside College
  • James Wharton MP (Conservatives)
  • Alex Cunningham (Labour)
  • Drew Durning (Liberal Democrats)
  • Jacqui Lovell (Green Party)
  • Steve Walmsley (Independent)

Candidates for the constituencies of the City of Durham and Stockton South were invited to participate;

  • Helen Goodman attended on behalf of Roberta Blackman-Woods in Durham
  • Alex Cunningham attended on behalf of Louise Baldock in Stockton
  • The Stockton South and Durham city UKIP candidates were scheduled to attend but withdrew

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