“Be stubborn and fight to achieve your dreams.”
That was top advice given by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Rt Hon John Bercow MP, on a visit to Harton Academy in South Shields, yesterday.
The politician held a question and answer session with students, which included guests from nearby schools, on a range of topics including youth voting and Brexit.
Mr Bercow, who chairs the Youth Parliament, told the students he was in favour of the right to vote being lowered from 18 to 16.
He said: “I think it’s the right think to do, if you give people the responsibility you can engage with them, I am in favour of young people having their voice heard.
“If we want to be respected by young people we need to show respect for young people, it’s a two way street and it needs to be earned.”
One student asked if England should be part of a non partisan system - where MPs wouldn’t be affiliated with parties.
However, Mr Bercow said he doubt this would ever happen.
He said: “I think it’s unrealistic. I do sometimes think that party whips intervene too much, but ultimately MPs have a duty to vote for what they think is right for the country.”
Mr Bercow was in the national press earlier this year for displaying a bumper sticker on his car saying ‘B******S to Brexit, it’s not a done deal.”
However, he told his audience: “I am not saying there should be another referendum, I am just airing the issues, it’s not for the speaker to make that call.
“I personally voted remain, a lot of people were against migration and that was their reason to vote leave, again personally I think we have gained more than we have lost through migration, but this is my personal opinion.”
“There are a lot of strong Brexiters like Jacob Rees Mogg and Boris Johnson and I respect their views. The speaker must have a reputation for being fair, to chair a debate, to listen to the point of views. The only enemy is time.”
As he parted ways Mr Bercow said: “I was very impressed by the quality of questions from students and the confidence in which they were delivered.
“I wish you all of the luck in the world and will not forget my time here at Harton.
“My message to you is to be stubborn and fight to achieve your dreams.
“I’m not particularly clever, but I am very stubborn and don’t give in easily.”
Sir Ken Gibson, the school’s executive headteacher, said: “What an absolute privilege to have had John Bercow, Mr Speaker, in our school.
“In the future when you catch him on the news, you can say you were in the great man’s presence.”