Ed Miliband and Justine Thornton in a special joint event at Acland Burghley School
3 December 2015
Today saw an incredible double event at Acland Burghley School in North London today as Ed Miliband MP and environmental lawyer and visiting lecturer at KCL Justine Thornton both came to speak to Year 12 and 13 students, along with a small cohort of Year 8s. It was a rare opportunity for students to hear from them both candidly about their own experiences, careers and answers to insightful questions ranging from gender issues to bringing about real change in politics.
The former Labour party leader spoke initially about how he had come into politics and how important it was to never give up on your goals. He and Justine both were passionate about instilling in the students that barriers were to be overcome, not accepted. Speaking about her own work as an environmental lawyer, Justine outlined some key cases she had worked on recently against Shell and BP, as well as talking about the relationship between law and politics.
The talk had fantastic fast-paced Q&A with students, with Ed and Justine fielding over 30 questions from students who were all eager to ask questions to both of them. Topics ranged from bullying in school to the vote on Syria to representing difficult cases in court to social barriers to the quality of media today. The couple answered openly and gave unique insights into politics, law and society. A few highlights include:
Responding to a question on whether it was more difficult to become a lawyer from a working class background, Justine replied that the law profession was becoming even less diverse, but that this must be challenged and the best way to do so is to work to be a lawyer yourself.
Students asked about the ‘bullying’ issue in schools, and both spoke about their experiences when they were younger and the importance of building up their own self-confidence, even if they had to fake it at first, and also by seeking help from others.
Ed explained his own vote regarding Syria and why he voted against airstrikes and fielded a number of questions on the subject, as it was naturally on the minds of many students.
The Year 13s were studying the theme of Change, and so Ed and Justine each took a moment to discuss how they view change in society. Justine said it was ‘a variety of things coming together’ backed by popular opinion, and Ed emphasised this last part to say that ‘it is people, not politicians, who create change’, as politicians are representing those people.
Justine spoke passionately about the significance of young women rising to their potential and her advice to ambitious young women. She hoped that she and Ed speaking together showed the importance of ending up with a partner that recognises their ambitions and can be mutually supportive.
This was a brilliant chance for students to hear from two eminent speakers, and from the dozens of questions asked, there was a lot they wanted to know.
Our thanks to Ed Miliband, Justine Thornton and Acland Burghley School for creating a unique and rewarding event!