ELECTION 2015: Candidates put on spot by grammar boys

Lancaster parliamentary candidates Matt Atkins (UKIP), Cat Smith (Labour), Robin Long (Lib Dem) and Chris Coates (Green) with LRGS head Dr Chris Pyle (right).
Lancaster parliamentary candidates Matt Atkins (UKIP), Cat Smith (Labour), Robin Long (Lib Dem) and Chris Coates (Green) with LRGS head Dr Chris Pyle (right).

Lancaster Royal Grammar School hosted its own Question Time-style debate, attended by four of the five Lancaster candidates for the forthcoming General Election.

Matt Atkins (UKIP), Chris Coates (Green Party), Robin Long (Liberal Democrats) and Cat Smith (Labour) all attended the debate.

Lancaster parliamentary candidates Chris Coates (Green), Cat Smith (Labour), Robin Long (Lib Dem) and Matt Atkins (UKIP) with LRGS head boy Nick Phillips (centre).

Lancaster parliamentary candidates Chris Coates (Green), Cat Smith (Labour), Robin Long (Lib Dem) and Matt Atkins (UKIP) with LRGS head boy Nick Phillips (centre).

Eric Ollerenshaw MP (Conservative) was unable to attend as he was needed in Westminster for the vote on the future rules for the election of the Speaker.

The debate was organised by Head of School Nick Phillips, 18, pictured above with the candidates, and a group of fellow Sixth Form students, Oliver Lowe, George Mason, Max Mortimer, Edward Pickthall and Larry Wong.

Nick, who is hoping to study law at university, said: “I thought the debate was a great success. There were moments of controversy, argument and provocation but I do think overall it was a fairly balanced debate.

“I think the audience got increasingly involved, which was good, and it was good that the candidates started debate with each other as well.

“I thought all the questions asked were challenging. Probably most of the students went away discussing Matt Atkins and Chris Coates as they were the most argumentative but many regarded Cat Smith and Robin Long to have made better quality points.

“I think what was particularly intriguing is that nobody regarded there to have been a clear winner, perhaps suggesting that the election will again prove the Lancaster & Fleetwood seat to be a marginal one.

“It was a shame that not all the candidates were in attendance. Eric Ollerenshaw was needed in Westminster for the vote regarding the future rules for the election of the speaker.

“However, the debate was widely enjoyed by all the Sixth Form and has probably encouraged a lot to vote on May 7.”


1. George Mason: “To what extent do you think grammar schools aid social mobility?”

CS: I think different schools work for different people.

RL: Each model serves everyone differently.

MA: I am thankful of the opportunity to come to LRGS and I want other people to have that.

CC: If we want to address social mobility we have to look further than the education system.

2. Max Mortimer: “With the housing market incredibly squeezed on the supply side, how can we be confident that we will be able to get on the property ladder in the near future?”

RL: One way is for the government to build more houses. Another is to offer more help for people to buy.

CC: We need to do something about the number of empty houses across the country.

CS: We need to build more houses. It’s also important that we look at the way private rented housing works.

MA: Prices have spiralled way out of control and the population has increased by about 5m in the last few years, which has had an effect on housing.

3. Rayhan Munavvar: “Do you think in the process of tackling extremism, Muslim communities in our country are being unfairly targeted and isolated?”

CC: We really need to do something to reach out across communities more.

RL: There’s a lot of emphasis put on individual communities themselves to integrate with the country. We should not put the onus on them.

CS: It’s clear there’s a rise in Islamophobia and hate crime.

MA: The idea that we can just mash everyone together doesn’t work. There’s an onus on the Muslim community to look at it because no one else can do that.

4. James Fenna: “The issue of climate change has dropped off the agenda since the financial crash, but it remains the dominant threat to global health and the economy over the coming decades. How will the parties encourage international cooperation towards renewing the Kyoto Protocol, and reaffirm national commitments to carbon reduction?”

CS: It’s a global problem. We should be working with other countries if we want to solve it.

RL: We can do a lot more and I think to get an international agreement we need to lead and encourage other countries.

MA: I believe we should be focusing our investment into what efficiencies can be made.

CC: People are looking to invest their money in something that will make a difference.

5. Alex Rigg: “Why is the Morecambe Bay Trust funded in the same manner as a city hospital when the population is much more spread out?”

CS: We are trying to run three hospitals on the same budget that others are running one or two. The trust needs to have its geography recognised.

RL: The NHS is wonderful and we need to keep funding it in the right way. It has to be decided by medical professionals instead of politicians.

CC: Geography is a huge issue for all sorts of public services and it needs to be taken into account.

MA: The management and bureaucracy of the NHS has spiralled out of control and needs to be reined in.

6. Larry Wong: “Do you think there is a deep divide between politicians at Westminster and young people?”

CC: The Green Party has for a long time wanted to lower the voting age to 16. I think that would make politicians sit up and take them seriously.

CS: We need politicians representing our country better; they come from a very narrow background.

RL: I want to see Parliament move closer to the real world.

MA: I think we need to engage young people more.”