After school I organised the first parliamentary debate for my A Level Politics group and I have to say that all of them did brilliantly - more confident, better prepared, wittier and straight to the point. They made a lot of our current MPs look like amateurs! The subject of debate was "Tony Blair's 10 years in power have been a sparkling success" - the motion was lost 7 votes to 5, which says a lot about the impact of Blair on 16-17 year olds who have only really known a Labour government!
Two girls took the role of Labour frontbencher and the Tory Leader of the Opposition. They not only made their own speeches but also took a barrage of interventions from backbenchers and from the other dispatch book. The two whips on either side took on the role of a cross between a cheerleader and a pitbull terrier.
The speeches were thoughful and based upon fact. It was interesting that Blair's fans took his record on crime and public services whilst those who opposed him concentrated on two key issues - Iraq and the NHS. The Labour supporters got rather annoyed by the constant Iraq references. Their frontbencher snapping from her seat: "Don't you lot have anything else to talk about?".
The opposition wanted to stick to Iraq, Labour wanted to move on ... more like real life than you'd imagine.
They soon got snappy as fellow MPs tried to put them off their stride and kept trying to refocus the debate to their point. Just like parliament!
Really this was the best I've seen in many years of teaching and I am now determined to work with these kids and, who knows, ending up at the National Parliamentary Debating Competition?
Best line: Labour whip: "I bet you Tories wish you hadn't had thrown all those mentally ill people onto the streets during your time in power - look, they've all ended up on your frontbench!"
Strangest point to make: Tory Leader: "20,000 years ago there were a fewer people than there are today."
Most disagreements: Labour and Tory frontbenchers: Has crime fallen or risen since 1997? Everyone had statistics to prove their point.