A-Level Politics Conference 2017 Summary
The day started off with John Bercow, where he discussed his role as the speaker of the house, and how he has to remain objective despite his previous alignment with the Conservative party. He stated that to remain objective he did, in fact, resign from the Conservative party. He faced a question about the fact that as he was a speaker and therefore had to have no outward opinions in the house, he couldn’t actually represent his constituency of Buckingham. He responded by stating that he can represent his constituencies needs outside of Parliament, by raising their concerns with the relevant agency or government department, and by aiding them with other issues if he can do personally. Mr Bercow stressed the importance of youth involvement in politics as we were the future of the country.
The next speaker was Keir Starmer, the Shadow Secretary of State for exiting the EU. He discussed the Brexit strategy, concerning the safety of EU migrants. He stated that the fact that the position of the EU migrants wasn’t one of the first things Mrs May discussed at Brussels was frankly concerning and showed her lack of ability to negotiate a good deal. He further added that when it came to economic policies, more specifically the large cost of exiting the EU we would have to pay, he said that it was concerning that we had even thought of ridding ourselves of this cost, and insisted that it was something that was necessary, especially in paying things such as pensions, (of those who work as part of the EU). He also added that he wanted a softer Brexit and one that allowed Britain access to the free market.
We then heard from Anna Soubry, who addressed her concerns about the single market, and how it was one of the key things that would mean we had received a good Brexit deal or a bad one. Furthermore, she then focussed on how women should be more involved in politics and was glad that the number of women in parliament was rising. She then faced a very interesting question of whether she would prefer Britain in the EU with Jeremy Corbyn as a prime minister, or whether she preferred Britain in its current state. She replied by saying that she was totally confident in Theresa May’s handling of Brexit. This was a very evasive answer as she didn’t actually answer the question that was put forward.
We later had Sir Alan Duncan, the Foreign Office Minister speak to us about his past in politics. He discussed how he enjoyed working under Boris Johnson, as well as the fact that since he was the first Conservative Minister to come out as gay; equality and the work being done to abolish discrimination had progressed at a pleasing rate. During the questions part of his speech he addressed lowering the voting age, gay rights, equal pay and mental health care.
Clive Lewis spoke next about the need for more young people getting involved in politics. A message that resonated throughout the day. He then went to speak on how Labour needed to progress under Corbyn, insisting the new victories concerning Labour in the last snap-election were down to Corbyn attracting the younger vote. He discussed how Labour's new aims where to target other age groups, as well as refocusing on key areas such as Scotland, and other swing constituencies. He spoke about his background, coming from a working-class background, that drove him into adopting the core beliefs and values of Labour.
Jess Phillips, the Labour MP and prominent feminist spoke about how we were too focused on Brexit, and that we should focus on issues such as domestic violence in the UK as well as the gender divide within Parliament. She spoke about her negative experiences of being name-called by prominent male figures, as well as the fact that if a man in a half decent suit gave a half decent speech he was leadership material, whereas if a women dressed immaculately gave the speech of her life, it would be dismissed. This line was in fact received by one of the largest rounds of applauses of the day. Later she went on to talk about how young women should get involved in politics, stating that the current inequalities shouldn’t scare women, as the only way the gender divide can be eliminated was through women actually getting involved.
Jacob Rees-Mogg came on to a mixed reception, he commented first that he was pleased that the cheers outnumbered the boos. The left-wing bias was evident, especially after the booing of Jacob Rees-Mogg, some may say that this aligns with the theory of age and its correspondence to political identity, (the younger tend to be more left wing, and the older tend to be more right wing). He came under much scrutiny, especially after some comments on why he was pro-life, and when asked about his more controversial comments about homosexuality, he managed to reply well by explaining that his personal views had no relevance on his actions as a politician due to the fact that in the democracy that is Britain, his views are a minority view and are therefore should not concern anyone.
Overall the trip was interesting and insightful. It helped people understand how fragile the Brexit negotiations are, and what the current situation is, as well as the desired outcomes of the two main parties. It also learnt explored the progress of equality for women and minorities in politics.