This week saw the first set of Cheltenham electoral candidates visit Dean Close to talk about the aims of their party at local and national levels.

The History and Politics Dept has joined up with the Library to host a series of talks to give pupils a broad view of politics at this critical time, just before the vote on 7 May. The series began on Tuesday 14 April with Martin Horwood explaining the core values of Liberal Democrat ideologies, and fielding some very sharp questions from students.

The next day was the turn of Alex Chalk, representing the Conservative Party. He arrived to a library brimming full of very keen – and very vocal – students. Alex began with a forthright and professional introduction to Conservative values, clearly demonstrating his former career at a barrister. Question time brought a plethora of questions and it was at that point that Alex showed his mettle with some detailed answers and some personal opinions.

In both instances Dean Close students pulled no punches, asking some very pointed, astute, questions and proving that young people today are just as politically keen and aware as previous generations wish them to be. It was an impressive display.

Next week will see the Labour candidate, Paul Gilbert, speak about his party’s local and national priorities, with candidates from the Green Party, UKIP, and an Independent Representative to be confirmed.

Some student views:

Jonathan Woods, Remove: “Though Martin Horwoodavoided some questions,generally, he seemedgenuine and experienced even though I am normally sceptical ofmost politicians.”

Patrick Bunker, Upper Sixth: “Alex Chalk performed strongly throughout, representing both the Conservative Party and, in particular, his own views, in a candid and engaging manner. He managed to avoid the dreaded politicians’ stereotype by directly answering a series of questions from students, which was a useful exercise in helping us to engage with the upcoming General Election.”

Matthew Hickey, Upper Sixth: “Martin Harwood made his case very well by getting across his stance on local issues and stood his ground in the face of some pointed questions. Alex Chalk seemed to mainly be sellinghis party at the national level in terms of the economic credibility of the Conservatives’ track record for the last five years, however I personally thought that the way he addressed some issues used terminology and conceptsbeyond most people in the room.”