To launch the new Wycombe High Meets … online interview series, Conservative MP for Wycombe Steve Baker was first up to chat to Year 13 Politics students via Zoom.
With his Labour counterpart from the 2019 General Election – Khalil Ahmed – next to face a grilling from the WHS students, Mr Baker discussed the current issues influencing UK politics and shared his thoughts about how the next few months could look.
For the past few years, the politics staff and students have put on a Question Time event with a variety of MPs who have been asked questions chosen by students. Due to the current Covid-19 restrictions, this has been unable to happen, so Wycombe High thought up a creative solution – to invite a variety of politicians and celebrities into the classroom to share their views and experiences in their field. Having participated in WHS’s Question Time in the past, Mr. Baker agreed to be the first.
Hot topics were not dodged with the Internal Markets Bill an early discussion point, having caused much debate in parliament. Mr Baker insisted that the UK must continue to appear strong as a nation in order to avoid being taken advantage of in negotiations, and assured us that the UK are in a good position to agree good trade deals with a variety of large countries once we exit the transition period with the EU. Also on the subject of Brexit, the Year 13s asked whether their MP thought that the prolonged Brexit talks neglected the youth. To this he answered no, saying that he realised that the majority of young people did not support the UK’s decision to leave, a view that he once shared. This was a surprise, as Baker is a former chairman of the European Research Group. He revealed that he had been persuaded to support Brexit after originally being against it, and he hoped that he could win over others in the same way. And the best way that he saw to do this was to succeed – to negotiate good trade deals with other countries and prove to young people that Brexit will benefit them in the future.
Mr Baker was next questioned on his views on partisanship, to which he responded that he was not a huge advocate of it. He stated that he thought that it was necessary in order to form a government, that every party ought to have a clear political ideology and manifesto so that people know who they wish to vote for at general elections. But he said that he has many partnerships with the Labour party and that he thought it was crucial that the parties attempted to act in good faith together. Overall, he does what he views to be right, and that very often sides with the Tory point of view.
Mr Baker was asked to share what he thought the government could have done better in the last few months in regards to the coronavirus pandemic and the issue of rules being mandatory or optional, and the PPE supply being discussed. He applauded Wycombe High and other local schools for their help in making protective equipment when the pandemic was at its worse. On a more personal note, Mr Baker was asked to reflect on his biggest political mistake. He judged this to be the story behind his nickname ‘Brexit hardman’, which first stemmed from an interview in which a tear fell on his cheek. He judged this kind of display of emotion to be rather embarrassing for a politician, although the class protested that this kind of humane act should not be criticised. Baker agreed, but accepted that politics is not a world in which one can expect sympathy, and judged this affair to be reason why he lost a lot of votes in the most recent general election.
In a nice cheery end, Mr Baker enlightened us on his favourite Tesco’s meal deal: a Tuna and Mayo Sandwich with a Mars Bar and Diet Coke. I may have to get that next time I’m in Tesco and claim that I’m engaging in extracurricular political research!
On the whole, the interview was a fantastic way for students to get to know their local politician and to receive some personal opinions about all the key political events at the moment. Mr Massie, who is leading the Wycombe High Meets … project, said that this new series is a way of finding positives in the current difficult situation, since it is much easier to hear a politician’s views on different topics when they are being interviewed individually.