JFS sixth-form politics students praised after quizzing frontbench Labour MP

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JFS sixth-form politics students praised after quizzing frontbench Labour MP

Labour's shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson was made to answer a varied and impressive mix of questions when she visited JFS school to speak with politics students

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Bridget Philippson on visit to JFS school, where she spoke and took questions from 6th form students
Bridget Philippson on visit to JFS school, where she spoke and took questions from 6th form students

JFS sixth-form politics students have proved themselves a match for any BBC Question Time audience after they were given the chance to put their questions to Labour’s shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson.

The highly-rated politician, known to be one of leader Keir Starmer’s key frontbench appointments, visited Europe’s largest Jewish secondary school on Wednesday, briefly addressing around 60 students, before answering a varied and hugely impressive mix of questions.

The north west London school’s thriving politics department encourages visits from politicians from all the main parties, and it was clear that the prospect of a general election later this year, allowing those who were turning 18 to vote for the first time, had served to heighten interest in political developments in this country even further.

The variety of questions asked by the students was truly impressive.

From the recent announcement of defence spending cuts, the influence of AI, to trust in politics, private education, the NHS, mental health issues, and on the proscription of the IRGC, Phillipson’s ability to offer opinion on the broadest range of issues was properly tested in what she later described as a “wonderful” question and answer session.

And despite the current uncertain and dangerous climate in the aftermath of October 7th, it was clear that issues around antisemitism had not damaged the teenager’s hopes and aspirations for the future.

Bridget Phillipson visits JFS school

When told that the grandparents of one student had no intention of voting Conservative at the next election, but that they were still concerned about voting Labour, despite the improvements made by Starmer in relation to antisemitism, Phillipson was very clear in her response.

“I would say that I completely understand that given everything the Labour Party went through in recent years, I understand that concern,” she said.

“The levels of antisemitism we experienced, the lack of swift action was totally unacceptable.”

But the MP added:”I would hope they would see Keir Starmer’s personal commitment and the action he has taken to root out antisemitism in the party.

“But I am conscious that we do have to be ever vigilant. We have to, as a party, remain ever vigilant as I do as a society in tackling antisemitism.”

JFS School in Kenton, Harrow

Phillipson, who grew up in a working class background in Sunderland, in the north-east of England, made it to Oxford University after excelling in her state school, explained her own route into politics, and then briefly explained what Labour was promising to do, particularly around education, if elected into government.

But the 40 year-old was challenged from the very first question put to her from the floor.

One JFS student noted that the forthcoming election could well be a “change election” with the Conservatives having been in power for 14 years but then added:”Why should I trust the Labour Party to change anything?”

Phillipson agreed that as was the case when Labour were last in power for 13 years, the current 14 year run for the Tory government had been in power for a “long time to set a direction.”

She said she believed the country was in “far worse shape” than when Labour were last in power, in terms of schools, the NHS, crime ” and much more besides.”

Bridget Phillipson, shadow education secretary

But, the MP admitted to the students that “ultimately Labour will be judged if we win the election on whether we deliver what we promised.”

This was, she said, what makes democracy “a brilliant thing” and allowed the electorate to judge a party’s performance five years later at the next election.

Taking off her party political hat, Phillipson encouraged the students to vote and make their voices heard, no matter what their political allegiance.

She also said Labour would proscribe Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps if elected.

Phillipson later met with JFS headmaster Dr David Moody who has succeeded in pushing standards at the school upwards once again.

You can read Bridget Phillipson’s interview with Jewish News later on this week

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