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Voting fever hits Derby school as it holds mock general election for the first time


Election fever is sweeping a city secondary school where every pupil has the chance to vote for sixth formers representing the three main political parties.

Every pupil at Derby Cathedral School has the opportunity to vote in the mock general election and even those on a school trip to Malaga have been invited to place a postal vote.

Freddie Robertson, 17, is representing the Conservatives, Joseph Fleming, 16, is the Liberal Democrat candidate, while 16-year-old Najma Malikzai is standing for the Labour Party.

The three mock general election candidates from left: Freddie Robertson, 17, representing the Conservatives, Joseph Fleming, 16, the Liberal Democrats and 16-year-old Najma Malikzai, standing for the Labour Party

The trio, who are all taking politics A-Level, have held a televised debate and they go round canvassing pupils – each form is being classed as a constituency – and they even have their own opinion polls.

Each candidate has a deputy, a campaign manager and their own team responsible for creating posters and leaflets, coming up with campaign slogans and organising hustings.

They hope that by encouraging fellow pupils to get involved they will help avert the participation crisis that means less than half 18-24-year-olds exercise their right to vote.

Joseph said: “Freddie is a member of the Conservative Party and so he was a natural choice for the Tory position, while Najma is a member of the Labour Party. My political beliefs are a bit more central, so I agreed to stand for the Lib Dems.

“This exercise is not about winning, it’s more about spreading information and helping pupils understand what each party stands for. We’ve stuck to the actual policies and manifestos of each party, so pupils have to vote on the real issues of the day.”

Freddie said: “In line with what’s happening nationally, much of the feedback I get is about what has gone before. We’ve done our own data gathering so we can target specific constituencies, or forms.

“We felt it was important that those pupils who are out of school weren’t made to feel disenfranchised, so postal votes have been provided for them.”

Najma added: “I’ve been surprised by the receptiveness from students. I ran a little Labour stand and, even when all the sweets had gone, I still had a lot of year sevens asking me excellent questions about what they could expect if they voted for me.

“At the outset there were plenty of pupils who obviously didn’t know much about politics – we had one who didn’t know who Rishi Sunak was – but we’ve seen that really change, which is something to be proud of.”

It is the first time the school, which belongs to Derby Diocesan Academy Trust, has held a mock election and they are supported by Derby City Council which has provided signage and a ballot box for election day on Thursday.

Freddie, who has been out canvassing for the conservatives locally and in London and has even spoken at the Tory party conference, hopes to work in politics one day.

Joseph would like to work for a nongovernmental organisation such as the United Nations or the World Health Organization.

Najma says she may consider a political career later in life but hopes to go into corporate law after university.

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