Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire Interviewed by Pupils

Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire Interviewed by Pupils

She conducted this Q&A with our Sixth Form pupils:

“Do you enjoy Prime Minister’s Questions?”

“I do enjoy Prime Minister’s questions, but it is generally staged and it’s only 30 minutes long – so it actually only represents a very small percentage of my weekly work.

All of the theatre – the noises, heckling etc. – is for show, but it’s because we are Her Majesty’s Legal Opposition. It’s our job to constructively oppose that what the government is proposing and challenge legislation. We need to ensure that when law is passed it is what the people want. It needs to represent the people.”

“I’m usually in Parliament from Monday through to Thursday, often with late nights. Then the remainder of my time is spent within my constituency – getting to know the people. My diary is packed with local visits like this, meetings with people and businesses. Not all MPs like to focus so much on the constituency diary, but for me it is important and something that I enjoy.”

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“What do people talk to you about?”

“I get to deal with all manner of complaints and issues –  from noisy neighbours, homeless people and generally people at the end of their tether that have tried everything else.

Petitions are also a big part of my day to day. Although not all petitions will find their way in front of me, they’re a great way for MPs like me to understand what’s important to our constituents.

I must say, one thing I still find extraordinary is the amount of petitions that crop up in my constituency for animals – namely bees, badgers and bats!

Bristolians love animals!”

“How do you know the age of people who vote?”

“You don’t! However, people often leave comments with their votes that tell you more about their demographic and why they voted.

“Could Labour be elected in its current state?”

No, I don’t think so. Not in 2020.

“Why?”

“The party is still divided, the country is divided. Nuclear Power plays a big role in this.

If you want to win a general election you need a whole country vision. If we want to win, we need to provide this clear vision.”

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“Do you think the press is out of control in its current state?”

"No I don’t. Freedom of speech is a good thing. I value a free press to challenge those in power; if you ever visit a country where there is no free press then you soon realise just how important it is. 

However, I think that there is an issue around the ownership of the press, which should be more representative of normal people in the UK.

I also think that social media has more of a problem than the press. Headlines from smaller websites can be unhelpful, and some tweets from individuals actually incite violence”

“Do you think you personally need more security?”

I’m more unhappy that I need security in the first place – I carry a personal alarm. I don’t like that my Mum worries about me.

However, I believe that a politician should be accessible to their constituents and I don’t feel like I can’t do ‘normal’ things. For instance, I took the bus in today – and in India there’s no chance that a politician would come into a school.”

“Women in politics – are we doing enough?”

Overall, no! We may have a female Prime Minister , and that does raise awareness of women in politics, but this still covers up the fact there is still an issue. Is it still a problem. 

There are more male MPs now than there have ever been – just 1 in 5 are female. This is a number that must be improved but there are many problems to be solved. Principally, it’s a very hard job to do with a family, and especially if you have young children. The unsociable hours and long time travelling don’t help.

However, the Labour party is doing more to help close the gap. Nearly half of our MPs are female, compared with close to 1 in 4 for the Conservatives.

A big part of that are all-women shortlists, which have been introduced to ensure that only women can stand in some constituencies. 50% of all seats are now selected by women-only shortlists.

This is a great initiative – and I’m proud of the fact that this was my route into parliament. “

Staff and pupils at Clifton College would like to thank Thangam for her time. 

Discover more about Clifton College

Watch: A Day in the Life of a Preparatory School Boarder

Life After Clifton: Universities and Careers 

 

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