As I write this, I am contemplating the thought of concluding Week 3 of the Hansard Scholars’ Programme, and perplexed where all the time seems to be disappearing to? The programme is just flying by and the experience has continued to be both involving and interesting, and so much more. Monday commenced with classes and we were lucky enough to hear from a guest speaker, Lord Norton of Louth, who serves as the Hansard Society’s Director of Studies as well as being a member of the House of Lords in the British Parliament. This session presented us with a deep understanding of Lord Norton’s role and it was a pleasure to learn from his significant political and academic experience. As part of the lecture, Lord Norton discussed elements of the United Kingdom’s Constitution which broadened our knowledge and understanding of this important convention. We also had the opportunity on Monday to partake in a guest lecture delivered by a retired political journalist. This session presented a contrasting view to others we have had in the past, and it was great to draw on the experience of this journalist. It was particularly interesting given how the media plays such a key role in the portrayal of the political environment and election campaigns. It was also fascinating to hear this journalist’s election predictions, as an experienced professional in the field, prior to election day on Thursday.
This week I (along with two of my peers of the programme) had the special opportunity to travel to the constituency of Pendle (located in Lancashire in countryside England) to assist with campaign efforts for Andrew Stephenson and the Conservative Party for three days, which included election day. It was a very busy and tiring but rewarding three days on the campaign trail in the quaint towns of Chorley, Nelson, Colne, Barnoldswick and surrounds where we engaged in a variety of campaign tactics including doorknocking and canvassing, letterbox dropping, preparing for election day and working as a teller on election day itself. This was an extremely valuable experience which provided the three of us with grassroots experiences in all facets of the campaign. I also enjoyed being able to meet various members of the campaign team and assist them in reaching their goal of reelecting Andrew to the House of Commons. It was fascinating to explore the British countryside which provided endless vistas and views from everywhere we went – this was definitely an added incentive given the long days we put in and kilometres we covered!! The constituency of Pendle is certainly an aesthetically appealing destination to visit, located just north of Manchester. We are very grateful to have been included in this experience and both thank and congratulate Andrew Stephenson for including us on his campaign, and on his successful reelection as the Member of Parliament for Pendle. It is clear that Andrew’s hard work and dedication to his constituency over the past two terms have paid off, resulting in a successful reelection to the House.
Election day was a very hectic day for all of us, starting at 4am with a ‘dawn raid’ of letterbox dropping followed by a stint on the polling booth and more letterbox dropping in the afternoon. The main contrast to an Australian election day is that the UK does not have compulsory voting. Therefore, parties have the additional task of motivating people to vote in general, as well as voting for their candidate. Following a tiring but successful Thursday, we travelled back to London arriving just before midnight, albeit very tired and with very sore feet! (Although we may have stayed up a bit too late to watch the results roll in!) Friday morning it was back to class for the Hansard Scholars where we met with our lecturer and discussed the election result which did serve as a surprise given the polling conducted earlier in May when the Prime Minister first called this ‘snap election’. We discussed the tactics used on the campaigns of the main political parties and debated what could have led to better/worse results for each of them. It was a relatively close result which required the Conservative Party to gain the support of another party (the DUP) to form power and this approach was also something we found very interesting to investigate.
Friday night I joined with some other scholars to dine in Chinatown for dinner and the cuisine certainly did not disappoint. The food and culture in this in Chinatown was amazing and I would certainly recommend it as a must-see dining option whilst in London. This weekend saw me take some much-needed rest however more interestingly, on Sunday, I enjoyed a visit to Greenwich. A short bus ride from central London allowed us to take in the sights and scenery along the way from the upper level of a ‘typically London’ double decker bus. It was very interesting to visit the Royal Observatory, and in particular, be able to position both of my feet in different hemispheres – interesting hey?! The museum was also fascinating to walk around in and appreciate the history of time. Whilst in Greenwich, we had an extensive walk around the main hub and enjoyed lunch at the Greenwich Markets, which turned out to be a very busy, bustling and vibrant place with again great food choices.
As I am sure you can convey from this blog, it has been a very busy but rewarding week for me and I look forward to updating you all about my travels in a week’s time!