Labour leader faces questions from Harlow journalism students

Following a visit from Prime Minister David Cameron in May, Harlow College journalism students Grace Earl and Gabby Bissett got the chance to interview another party leader, Ed Miliband, when he visited the college on 12 November.

Under-fire Labour leader Ed Miliband chose Harlow College as the place to try and boost his popularity.

During a visit to the college on Wednesday, 12 November, Mr Miliband answered questions from journalism students and held a Q&A session with young people, staff and members of the community.

He admitted that the campaign to become Prime Minister in next May’s general election is “a big fight”, but he quashed doubts over his leadership ability by promising “it’s a fight that I’m up for”.

Mr Miliband said: “We are going to be a country which works for everyone. UKIP and the Tories say everything is fixed. But recovery is only applying to certain people.”

When asked about what he will do for young people, he said: “We need opportunities for all young people. This means more vocational courses and more apprenticeships.

“We will also give the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds.”

He argued that a big problem is zero hour contracts, which he called a “19th century way of working but in the 21st century.”

He also stated that, if elected, Labour would repeal the Health and Social Care Act, and build 200,000 new homes a year.

Mr Miliband concluded: “Our task is to show there are answers to the challenges in people’s lives.”

He also reaffirmed that a Labour government would extend the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds and said that politicians “needed to give young people a voice.”

Trainee journalists from the college were given the chance to meet Mr Miliband during an informal interview prior to his Q&A session. He faced questions on topics including tuition fees, unemployment in young people and how he deals with pressure.

Tom Powter, 21, is currently studying for his NCTJ Fast-Track Diploma at Harlow’s prestigious journalism centre, which counts Piers Morgan and Jeremy Clarkson among its alumni. He said: “Meeting and interviewing Mr Miliband was a fantastic opportunity for me as a trainee reporter.”

“I felt the college set up the day excellently and it gave us an amazing insight into the dizzying world of political journalism.”

Harlow was built as a new town after World War II and is currently represented by Conservative MP Robert Halfon. It is a key marginal seat in the run up to the election.

In an attempt to deter working-class voters from voting for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), which has already had councillors elected in Harlow, Mr Miliband told his audience: “UKIP do not represent ordinary working people.”

“An exit from the European Union would spell big trouble for Britain. We are much stronger as a country when we look outwards, rather than inwards.”

“This ‘mythical past’ that UKIP and its supporters believe we can return to simply doesn’t exist. It’s nonsense.”

“It’s fair to say that we’re in an uncertain time as a nation. But it’s time to start looking forward.”

Rebecca Cushway, 25, a journalism student who asked a question in the Q&A, said: “Having Ed Miliband visit the college was something really special.

“Never did I think I would get to question the leader of the opposition so early on in my journalism career.”

BBC political editor Nick Robinson was also at the college and interviewed Mr Miliband following his address to the public.