Politics has been brought to life for students at Dame Allan’s Schools in Newcastle upon Tyne after a visit from Shadow Home Secretary, Andy Burnham.
Mr Burnham was speaking to students as part of the Schools’ mock EU Referendum, and also gave a broader insight into political life.
The Shadow Home Secretary began by telling the young audience about his own path into politics following the 1980s miners’ strike, which inspired him to become politically active at the age of 16, the same age as many of those listening to him.
Speaking about the EU Referendum, Mr Burnham spoke passionately about the forthcoming vote and put forward his ‘remain’ argument. Describing it as “the most important vote in a lifetime”, he said that in his opinion, leaving the EU could well break up the UK further down the line.
Mr Burnham also expressed his frustrations that young people won’t get a say on 23rd June, as they did in the Scottish referendum, saying: “I am frustrated that young people, 16 and 17 year olds, aren’t able to vote. The outcome of this vote will affect your lives far more than those much older than you who are able to vote. But you can still make a difference, research the arguments and campaign for what you believe in.”
As well as commenting on the EU, Mr Burnham answered a host of questions on a range of subjects from the audience, many of whom study politics at A Level.
There were a number of questions on the Hillsborough enquiry. Mr Burnham was instrumental in bringing the truth about the disaster to the fore and said the recent verdict was one of the proudest achievements in his political career.
Interestingly, politics student Rozita Leetham linked the EU with the Hillsborough enquiry, asking if Mr Burnham felt the families of the victims would have benefitted from the EU laws we have now, had they been in place in 1990 at the original inquest. “I do actually. I think if they’d had the European Convention on Human Rights then as it is now, it would have been a lot easier for the families to challenge the initial verdict,” he said.
One young student also questioned the Shadow Home Secretary on the rumour that he may be standing for Mayor of Manchester. Mr Burnham confirmed that whilst he is thinking about it, nothing firm had been decided.
However the question prompted him to speak about the wider picture for the North of England and the Northern Powerhouse, about which Mr Burnham, who is MP for Leigh in the North West of England, spoke enthusiastically: “The Mayoral role is part of the Northern Powerhouse initiative which I see as a good thing. I want to get a better deal for the North. It’s time to rebalance the country and actually I think the North East gets the worst deal of all and it deserves much better.”
Mr Burnham ended his talk by reminding the young people that they are the future of politics. He said: “It worries me that young people are disillusioned with politics. For all the flaws in the political system it does help those in need. You can change the world through politics; get involved. If I can do it, you can do it.”
Dr John Hind, Principal at Dame Allan’s Schools said: “Mr Burnham’s visit is a real honour for Dame Allan’s Schools and his presentation proved to be inspirational for our young people. We are proud that we are engaging our students in politics through this mock referendum, as we did with the General Election, and Mr Burnham’s talk has added greatly to this process.”
The talk was part of the mock EU Referendum at Dame Allan’s Schools which has also included speakers from a range of political viewpoints.