Guest speaker at the Presentation Evening at John Hanson School was the local MP, Sir George Young. He gave certificates to those who had just left the school, and Grace Morgan - Chairman of Governors - handed out the prizes.
Speaking at the ceremony, Sir George complimented the school on the progress it has made under Steve Evatt and all his team; progress that had been assisted by the work of the governors, the support of the parents and the enthusiasm of the pupils.
He spoke about the decline in interest in politics..
"I watched GMTV on Wednesday morning, the day after the State Opening of Parliament. Those, like me, who were hoping for some coverage of the previous day’s events were disappointed. The longest item, and that which excited Fiona and the presenters most, was the news that Vic Reeves, Nancy Sorrell’s husband, had gone to join her in the jungle.
I want to talk briefly this evening about two Houses. One is Big Brother’s – the House from which people are expelled by the viewers; the other is my House, from which people are expelled by the voters.
Why do more people pay, by dialling a Premium Rate number, to vote on Big Brother, and make a choice for the House which will have no impact whatsoever on their own lives, than vote for free in an election to my House, that might have some impact on them?
I ask that question all too well aware that watching Natalie Appleton pushing a shopping trolley on a high wire may be as interesting for some people as watching the Queen travel in the Royal Coach."
"For many people, politics is a switch off. The number of people voting is falling; politicians are held in low esteem, somewhere near journalists and estate agents – with my apologies to parents in the audience who follow either noble profession.
I am genuinely concerned about the gulf opening up between Parliament and people. More people voted in the first Big Brother than voted at the last general Election.
Someone, sensibly, did some research to find out why.
The answer was quite interesting. People could relate to the folk in the House. (The Channel 4 House – not mine).They were manifestly and visibly human; wore ordinary clothes; they discussed the things that normal people talk about in ordinary – sometimes colourful language ; they made mistakes and apologised – a word that rarely appears in the politician’s vocabulary. They had emotions and feelings which they shared. They helped people when they are in trouble.
In fact, they did most of the things that people don’t believe politicians do. People don’t relate to us. You watch Prime Minister’s questions and you see us being rude to each other. The perception is that we don’t say what we think – we say what we are told to say by our pagers. We work in a building that looks like Hogwarts, protected by men in tights with swords. We assume everything done by the other side is wrong and everything we do is right. We don’t admit to mistakes and we never say we’re sorry. We blame other people if something goes wrong, and we spend weeks arguing about things that ordinary people don’t find important, like criminalising people who chase foxes. That is the perception.
So given a choice, why should anyone choose my house and not Channel 4?
There are two sides of the coin for the answer; one for me and one for you.
For me, MP's need to focus on accessibility, relevance and empathy to bridge the gap.
For you, you need to link the issues you mind about to politics.
Whether it is Iraq or the fact that billions of people live on less than a dollar a day; or that our scarce resources are being depleted - these are all political issues.
If you don't resolve them through the ballot box, there is the risk of non-parliamentary form of action; if fewer people vote, the govetrnment and the laws that Parliament pass will lack legitimacy.
So join a party. I am relatively relaxed about which Party, but I would prefer you to avoid the unattractive ones on the far right"
"Young people, like those here this evening, can build the links. The PM on 30 years time could be in this Hall this evening. Why not?"