WOKING College hosted a lively Question Time Debate with students asking five of the six candidates hoping to become the town’s MP next week about their views on immigration, tuition fees, the EU, austerity and the youth vote.
The event, in the heat of last Friday afternoon, drew a sizeable audience of 16-19 year-olds from the student body of 1,300, almost half of whom are eligible to vote.
Reducing the voting age to 16 or 17 was one of the question topics and Jonathan Lord, the Conservative candidate, and Troy de Leon, of UKIP, both said they were comfortable with the current voting age of 18, while the Independent candidate Hassan Akberali, Labour’s Fiona Colley and William Forster of the Liberal Democrats all agreed that the voting age should be lower.
One student said he was turning 18 on polling day and each candidate took it in turns to wish him a happy birthday in advance, accompanied by laughter from the audience and the politicians.
The atmosphere became a little more tense when Brexit and austerity came up.
The college principal and event chairman, Brett Freeman, had asked that the tone be positive and for the candidates not to attack each other’s views.
This truce was broken when Ms Colley referred to the Conservatives “appearing to be delusional” over a post-Brexit Britain.
Mr Lord responded later by saying that when the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition came to power in 2010, they inherited a huge budget deficit left behind by Gordon Brown and his Labour Government.
The Green Party candidate, James Brierley, was not able to attend the debate as he is a full-time teacher and none of his campaign team was available for similar reasons.
UKIP will be represented by Mark Webber, the party’s candidate in South West Surrey, as Mr de Leon will be visiting his wife who is receiving medical treatment in Thailand, where she was born.