Bethany School Logo

Home / Latest News / Baroness Fookes speaks with A Level Politics pupils

Baroness Fookes speaks with A Level Politics pupils

The History & Politics Department managed to secure an online meeting this week with Baroness Fookes as part of the Learn with the Lords programme, which was attended by the Year 12 and 13 A Level Politics pupils.

Baroness Fookes began by giving a brief resume of her long career in Parliament, which began when she was elected as a Conservative MP to represent Merton and Moreden in 1970. She became Deputy Speaker before becoming a life peer in 1997 and moving to the Lords.

Our pupils then had the opportunity to ask Baroness Fookes a wide range of questions, which focused on topics relevant to our A Level programme but also on some of the big issues of the day, all of which she answered openly and with humour.

When pressed on the democratic deficit presented by having an appointed rather than an elected second chamber, Baroness Fookes said that she felt this was outweighed by the advantage in having such a wide range of talents and experiences available to the Lords.  She also said that she liked the historical connection of having some hereditary peers remaining in the House, but did accept that she might be in a minority on that question.

When asked about the differences between life as an MP and life as a peer, she said that she greatly enjoyed both, except being an MP at election time, which she described as terrifying.  She said that debates in the Lords can get quite heated, but that even then they remain timid by the standards of the Commons; this she put down partly to a mellowing due to age, but also due to a greater freedom to see the full complexity of issues compared to life in the Commons, where Party ties are much stronger and more restrictive.

downloadHer favourite party leader to serve under was Sir John Major, whom she described as ‘much-maligned’, having taken over at such a divided time in Conservative politics.  She struggled to offer an answer when asked which opposition leader she most admired – ‘I haven’t given a great deal of thought to it’ – but conceded a soft spot for Jim Callaghan, although this was more due to his personal qualities than his political policies.

Baroness Fookes also answered questions on Brexit (was a remainer and now thinks that we need to seize the opportunity for new successes whilst not losing the many positive points of EU membership), FPTP v PR (no system is perfect, but PR leads to weak government) and the modern-day polarisation of politics (social media has much to answer for and stifles reasoned debate).

All in all, it was a fascinating discussion, at the end of which Baroness Fookes was full of praise for our pupils. All six pupils thoroughly enjoyed the experience and took a huge amount from it, and I hope it is something that we can repeat in the future.

Simon Davies
Head of History & Politics Department