Jude meets Paxmans in the making at South Tyneside College

15 December 2014

Jude Kirton-Darling, one of three politicians representing the North of England in Europe, admitted the near 90-minute session was like being grilled by a room of young Jeremy Paxmans.

Around a dozen BTEC Level 3 Public Uniformed Services learners quizzed her on how she became an MEP, how much the UK gains financially from being in the EU.

To other questions, she claimed the biggest issue facing Europe was the terms of a possible major trade deal with the US and admitted the EU – or NATO – was unlikely to take military action against Russia over Ukraine.

And in response to being asked why UKIP want the UK to withdraw from the European stage, the life-long trade unionist, who was raised in Middlesbrough, insisted: “We would be weakened if we left.”

Ms Kirton-Darling, 37, who in May was elected one of Labour’s two North East MEPs, said her job was “exciting” but admitted much time was lost on the impractical and costly habit of Europe moving between parliaments in Brussels and Strasbourg.

Of her visit, the MEP, who sits on the EU’s Committee on International Trade, said: “It was great to be at South Tyneside College and they were a fantastic bunch of students.

“It’s a priority for me to get out an about in the region and talk about my role as an MEP and how Europe is relevant to people’s lives.

“It was good to be questioned by the students and there were definitely some future Paxmans in the group.”

She was invited to the college’s Westoe campus, in St Georges Avenue, South Shields, to help students whose course provides training in the skills for work in the military, police, and fire and prison services.

Study areas include the work of the European Parliament, the policies of British political parties and the government, and voting systems. Students also learn teamwork, leadership, problem solving, communication skills, and fitness and physical preparation.

Public Service tutor Mick O’Reilly said he hoped the visit would add to their ability to approach subjects in a reasoned way and to make their own decision and choices.

He added: “I asked them what they were interested in and what they wanted to ask. Things like what is happening in Ukraine does play on their minds – it was good to get some facts on that and other issues.

“I was very impressed by their mature attitude and by the questions they asked, a lot of thought went into them.

“I was also very impressed by Jude, who was friendly and down to earth but at the same time good at putting her point across on issues tied to Europe. She had excellent people skills.

“We now plan to invite a speaker from another political party, so that the students get a balance of opinion. That is very important, as these are the future people in the armed and uniformed services, and maybe even our future politicians, too.”

The two-year Level 3 course is a subsidiary diploma and can give access to a foundation degree or relevant employment.

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