Westminster to Wycombe: A view from Wycombe Abbey

NB This post has been kindly written by Tiffany Lau, Yr 12, Wycombe Abbey School – outlining her thoughts and experiences of the Westminister to Wycombe debate 

Many misconceptions were cleared up at today’s Westminster to Wycombe Parliamentary debating event at Highcrest Academy, High Wycombe.

Here are just a few.

1.     Politics is boring.

Debating in a British Parliament format more or less clears up this misconception. There were quality debates on overseas aid, public spending and the deficit, the UK leaving the EU, digital copyright laws, and military intervention in Syria. If that’s still not exciting enough for you, we also had to sit down and calm down pretty often when the speaker yelled ‘ORDER!’ when whoever it was that was speaking could barely be heard over the noise of fifty enthusiastic teenagers shouting ‘HEAR, HEAR!’ and ‘SHAME!’ at the same time. (If you watch PMQs you will know that this actually happens in the House of Commons, which has the capacity for 427 out of the 650 MPs.) We also practised our reflex skills when we repeatedly jumped up from our seats as soon as someone finished speaking, hoping to ‘catch the Speaker’s eye’. It was a most enjoyable and intellectually stimulating experience, and to anyone who thinks otherwise- ‘SHAME!’

2.     Politicians are stodgy and stuffy.

Mr. Steve Baker certainly isn’t. After the debates, he was willing to take questions from the floor. He first started off with responding to our very own Natasha’s (Yr 13) tweet asking him why he didn’t vote for gay marriage. Due to time constraints, we eventually moved on to other issues like healthcare, the EU, and the defence budget, but for each question, he responded honestly and in a very detailed and carefully considered way. He expressed his regret that society is not entirely accepting of homosexuality just yet, and his struggle to reconcile his conscience and the opinions of the people in Wycombe. He made several interesting points about MPs, one of which being that MPs are representatives, not delegates (people studying Politics, take note!). All in all, it was quite refreshing to hear an MP answer your questions in a frank and straightforward manner.

3.     The youth don’t know/care about politics.

 This morning’s teenage participants couldn’t have been more interested in politics. At the question and answer session with Mr Baker, they asked him about a variety of political situations and clearly knew what they were talking about. When it came to the Syrian issue, many people got quite emotionally involved and obviously cared very much about the plight of Syrian people, and it was a really heated debate. If you have lost hope in the youth of today, just speak to any of the young, bright and enthusiastic participants, and I’m confident that your hope will be restored.

Of course, I must mention that the Wycombe Abbey girls performed very well. Mukami (Yr 13) was the first speaker of the event, and she opened the case with a compelling argument for ring-fencing foreign aid, and Imogen (Yr 12) swept the floor with an argument that appealed to everyone’s humanity. Next, the Wycombe Abbey girls were on the opposition, and Isabelle (Yr 12) and Isabel (Yr 13) made the case for remaining in the EU, appealing to everyone’s common sense in their succinct and sharp cases. On the back benches, we performed well too, coming well-armed with statistics on trade with the EU and on factions in Syria. The rest of the team took to happily pointing out flaws in their opponents’ arguments and saying ‘hear, hear’ when another Wycombe Abbey girl made a particularly good point.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable event and we hope it will be repeated next year!

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Comments & Responses

One Response so far.

  1. Ian Mulder says:

    This sounds like an excellent thing, worth doing in all schools, but only where there is enthusiasm and initiative, as opposed to being yet another mandatory thing on the syllabus.

    Congratulations to all concerned! And if, as I suspect, some of the pupils involved are student visitors from overseas, this inside view of good democracy in action is something to take back home as one of the most precious lessons, and a catalyst for betterment of the entire world.