Despite chilly temperatures outside, High Arcal School was the venue for heated debate this Friday, December 9, as head girl Jenny Bullas was among members of the audience selected to ask questions on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions.
A capacity crowd consisting of people from all over the Black Country listened eagerly during the broadcast as host, Jonathan Dimbleby, chaired topics of debate including David Cameron’s recent veto of the EU treaty to rescue the euro, controversial proposals for means testing of bus passes and TV licences for pensioners, current attitudes to the ever-rising number of unemployed people in the UK and Jenny’s question regarding the mandatory life sentence and its fairness.
The panel was made up of Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, Shadow Home Office Minister, Gloria De Piero, Sir Charles Pollard, former Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police and Daily Telegraph columnist, Mary Riddell. A strong police presence both inside and outside the school signified the importance of tonight’s guests, although happily, the evening passed without incident.
Any Questions got off to a hilarious start when the panel was asked who they would most like to send to newly discovered planet, Kepler 22b. Philip Hammond suggested Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, while Sir Charles Hammond declared he would be happy to launch controversial Top Gear host, Jeremy Clarkson, into space.
There were emotive debates between Philip Hammond and Gloria De Piero as they challenged each other’s policies on getting the UK deficit down and helping more people into work. Sir Charles Hammond received a huge round of applause when he stated that, rather than being a nation of shopkeepers as Napoleon famously said, we are now a nation of London-centric agents and middlemen eating into the pension funds of working people and causing a pension growth rate of just 1.5 per cent.
High Arcal’s head girl, Jenny Bullas, posed the last question of the night, asking whether the panel thought the mandatory life sentence was unjust. This led Sir Charles Hammond to reel off some fascinating statistics regarding restorative justice (where offenders meet their victims) and a reduction in the amount of people re-offending. Most of the panel agreed some form of change was needed to differentiate between premeditated murders and so-called ‘mercy killings’, but concurred that change is unlikely to happen in the near future.
The event was a major success for High Arcal School, which, as well as recently becoming an Academy, is also celebrating its 50th anniversary. Visit the school’s website for more information.