At times when it is reasonable to be pessimistic about the state of the country and the world it is often refreshing to hear what young people are thinking. I enjoyed two visits to primary schools in recent days, in both of which I was questioned firmly but politely by children who were evidently engaged and idealistic about the future.
The two schools were Ashford Oaks and Mersham, and at Ashford Oaks the main topic of conversation was the environment, in the wake of the COP 26 Conference. The range of issues brought up under this general umbrella was fascinating.
Our conversation covered not just the very topical point of energy generation and where we get our power from, but the state of the sea after plastic pollution, the changeover to electric vehicles, and how we avoid wasting water. I learned the sobering fact that only one per cent of the water in the world is drinkable.
At Mersham the main reason for my visit was to present the prize to the winner of the school’s Litter Angels competition, but while they had me there Years 5 and 6 took the change to question me on many different aspects of life as an MP.
These ranged from the practicalities of being in Westminster for part of the week and Ashford for the rest to the headlines of recent days, including parties at Downing Street.
I really enjoy these sessions as a way to plug back into the real world after days at Westminster, and in this instance as a way to cheer myself up about the future. One of the things I have learned about young people at any age is that they would much prefer a straight answer which they disagree with than any attempt at political ambiguity. This is itself an excellent way to sharpen the brain.