With less than a month to the local council elections UCU members in Southampton found a novel way of connecting voters with politicians on 12 April and making them work a bit harder for their vote.
UCU invited councillors from the four main parties to go speed dating with local UCU members, teachers, parents, students and community leaders at Southampton City College.
Council leader Royston Smith from the Conservatives, Labour Councillor Richard Williams, Liberal Democrats Councillor Adrian Vinson and Chris Bluemel from the Green Party all faced the voters.
The event, which was part of UCU’s Union Cities project, had very simple rules. Constituents spent five minutes with each of the politicians before the whistle blew and they moved on to the next.
Those taking part included Caryn Symons, a UCU member at Southampton City College, who works with some of the city’s most disadvantaged young people as part of the City Horizons scheme.
How did she find being able to question Southampton Council leader Royston Smith and others about services for young people?
‘I think the format is really fun and a good way of getting people together’, said Karen. ‘It was great having politicians from the main parties in the same room and seeing them quickly in succession.
‘Although five minutes is a short period of time you are face-to-face with them and can raise important issues, such as the impact of losing the EMA, directly with them.
‘I was especially pleased to see two of the college’s students participating. It is good to give them a taste of politics and for them to realise their vote is important.’
Joining Caryn on the people’s panel was Harriet Brooks, a business and administration apprentice. ‘I have never voted before’, said Harriet.
‘I was a bit nervous beforehand, but once I got into it I found it really useful. I was able to talk about why it is important to help apprentices like me and to help us find jobs. I will definitely be voting now.’
The event also proved popular with the media, featuring on the BBC lunchtime and evening television news, as well as being covered by the Southampton Daily Echo.