Representing Newbury Labour party, Dr Liz Bell was on the panel for Kennet School Question time. We asked her for her thoughts on the event.
“The Year 12 students and staff at the Kennet School in Thatcham were kind enough to invite me to join a Question Time Panel on Friday 6th March 2020. I represented Labour (as a member of Newbury CLP and a former local and Parliamentary candidate), alongside Steve Masters(Greens), Tony Vickers (Lib Dems) who are both West Berkshire Councillors and in Steve’s case also a Parliamentary Candidate, and Laura Farris, the Conservative MP for Newbury. It was also great to see Carolyne Culver, another local Green Councillor there in support.
The students submitted thoughtful and challenging questions on topics including the Coronavirus outbreak, electric cars, electoral reform and drugs policy leading to a great debate. We found a lot of common ground, for example on issues surrounding managing the Coronavirus outbreak without undue panic, and addressing the linked NHS resourcing issues and work sick leave entitlements so people can self isolate without financial penalties. There was a lot of sensible discussion around providing infrastructure for electric cars, with myself, the Lib Dem and the Green strongly flying the flag for also increasing investment in public transport. It also gave me the chance to moan about the delays my family has been experiencing in leasing an electric car, where we’ve had to wait for months due to difficulties installing our charging point etc. leaving me with the distinct impression that it is still has a long way to go as an industry.
There were some expected differences of political opinion, for example Labour, Lib Dem and the Green all being in favour of reducing the voting age to 16, and the Conservative holding the line at keeping it to 18, similarly on decriminalising or not decriminalising many currently illegal drugs. The latter gave me the opportunity to share the work I did with Professor David Nutt many years ago on the importance of an evidence based drugs policy to the UK.
And indeed some surprises when we discovered that our Conservative MP, like everyone else on the Panel, was also very much in favour of reform of the House of Lords. She is making some concrete proposals around how a new body might work and include better regional representation. I was impressed by that.
Thanks very much All. I’m afraid I fell seriously in love with the big cat painting by a former student in the building in which the debate was held. Real talent.”
Blog From Dr Liz Bell – Newbury CLP Member