Stevenage election date scrapped as parents pile on pressure

John Henry Newman

John Henry Newman - Credit: Archant

Parents playing politics led to a debate aimed at educating school children about what different parties stand for being scrapped.

The prospective Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidates who will be contesting the Stevenage seat in May’s general election were due to take part in the 30 minute debate in front of pupils at The John Henry Newman School in Hitchin Road yesterday.

But the event was scrapped last week after several parents contacted the school wanting to know why different fringe candidates had or hadn’t been included.

Headteacher Clive Mathew said: “Originally it was just going to be the three main parties, but then people started contacting us asking why the Greens weren’t included.

“We agreed they could join, but we then received complaints from parents about who was and wasn’t going be included.

“It was something we tried to do but in the end I felt like David Cameron.

“Too many people had too many different views and it became a lot more bother than it was ever going to be worth.”

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Mr Mathew explained that even if all the different parties could have been included, there would not have been enough time for each of them to speak and answer questions properly in the half hour debate.

“Our focus is on educating the children,” he said.

“We will tell them about various events going on with the candidates ahead of the election and encourage them to go but we won’t be holding anything at the school.”

The cancellation has left some students feeling they’ve missed an important opportunity to learn about the people campaigning to represent them.

Year 13 student Connor McNulty said: “A lot of students haven’t been educated about politics and by cancelling this we’ve missed a huge opportunity to learn about it.

“It’s important for people when they turn 18 to vote and I do not think it is the school’s place to restrict education, it should provide it.”

The students will have a chance to see and hear most of the candidates at a public election hustings at 7.30pm on Wednesday, April 15, at the Friends Meeting House in Cuttys Lane.

So far all the declared candidates barring Liberal Democrat Susan van de Ven and Conservative Stephen McPartland have confirmed that they will be there.

Organiser Steve Glennon said: “It is open to anyone who wants to see first-hand what the parties stand for and question them.”

For more call Steve on 07905 167703.