Chesterfield College defends banning political parties from freshers' fair

Chesterfield College.
Chesterfield College.

Chesterfield College has defended a 'bizarre' decision to ban political parties from its freshers' fair.

Young politicians have criticised the college for not allowing political party stalls at the event on Monday, September 17.

The college said the ban had been in place for 'a couple of years' but insisted it 'actively' welcomes and invites political parties to engage with students through debates and information sessions throughout the year.

Matthew Genn, Chesterfield Lib Dem youth officer, said: "I am disappointed with this frankly bizarre decision by Chesterfield College.

"This is especially concerning givien the importance that young voters played in both the EU referendum and last year's General Election.

"Clearly this shows that young people, when given the opportunity, can be interested and be involved.

"All Chesterfield College has done with this decision is to reinforce the view to its students that politics isn’t for them - and that it's something that doesn’t affect their lives."

Blaine Uknighted, North Derbyshire Lib Dem youth officer, added: "It is crucial that we engage people at a young age to become politically active.

"All political parties have raised concerns at the lack of engagement with younger people and so this decision seems like a step backwards.

"I hope Chesterfield College see the importance of allowing their students the opportunity to understand different political parties and overturn this decision."

A Chesterfield College spokesperson told the Derbyshire Times: "It isn't a new decision - it's something we have done for a couple of years.

"We actively welcome and invite political parties to engage with students through debates and information sessions throughout the year.

"We understand how important it is for young people to take an interest in their local community and we run various initiatives to allow them to do that.

"We have a good working relationship with local MPs and councillors who are regular visitors to the college where they engage with our students.

"For example, during the election campaign period last year we felt it was vital to give students the opportunity to talk to politicians about the issues affecting them so our students' union invited the Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Conservatives in to speak students. Representatives from Labour and the Conservatives chose to attend.

"Because of the nature of our freshers' event and the fact that our policy is, and has always been, to provide an impartial approach to political views we always attempt to make space to have a cross section of political views represented when political parties are in college.

"We took the decision that the freshers' event was not the best place to do that and that there would be more appropriate occasions to ensure we gave our students the opportunity to find out more about politics."