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Hearing from Heseltine: grandee’s insights from the heart of British politics

Former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Michael Heseltine delivered a lunchtime lecture giving an insider’s view of the key characters and issues that have shaped modern British politics.

The Conservative politician, who worked directly with four Prime Ministers, spoke to a packed house drawn from all year groups in the Friends’ Recital Hall. The optional lecture, part of QE’s Flourish extra-curricular programme, was organised by Year 13 pupil Anish Kumar and the QE Politics Society.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “We are keen for the boys to hear from leaders and influential thinkers in their respective fields. Lord Heseltine is a towering figure in British politics: it was an honour to welcome him to the School and we are most grateful to him for taking the time to visit and deliver such an insightful lecture drawn from a political career spanning some 50 years.”

Mr Enright thanked Anish and the Politics Society for organising the visit and paid tribute to all who had worked to ensure it passed off smoothly.

Lord Heseltine, who is 90, began his career as a property developer, before becoming one of the founders of the Haymarket publishing house. He served as a Conservative Member of Parliament from 1966 to 2001, when he was created a life peer.

Having previously served Ted Heath, he entered the Cabinet in 1979 under Margaret Thatcher as Secretary of State for the Environment. He served as Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State within John Major’s  administration. Later, he fulfilled advisory roles when David Cameron was Prime Minister.

Lord Heseltine began his lecture after a welcome from Anish – who introduced him as “one of [his] political heroes” ­– and warm applause from the boys.

In his lecture, he covered topics ranging from industrial strategy (a particular interest and area of expertise of his) and the revitalisation of the city of Liverpool (with which he has a special, and perhaps unique, relationship as a Conservative politician), to devolution.  Famously a supporter of the European Union and opponent of Eurosceptics, he expressed his desire to see the UK return to the EU fold in the future.

In a Q & A session chaired by Anish, pupils then posed their own questions.

  • On the future of the Conservative Party, he opined that it will find power from the centre-ground – an answer that was especially topical, given the recent Government reshuffle and the return to government of David, now Lord, Cameron;
  • On the nature of a life in politics, Lord Heseltine said it was a privilege, but one that inescapably involved making unpopular decisions, often on “50:50” issues in which the side you support will think you reasonable and “a good, sensible bloke”, while those whose expectations are dashed will believe you don’t listen, don’t care and are in politics only for yourself!
  • When asked about his proudest moment, he referenced his 1981 party conference speech;
  • On whether he regrets not quite becoming Prime Minister, he answered in the affirmative and furthermore set out the approach he would take to transform the nation’s governance and economic strategy if he were in 10 Downing Street today.


Inspiring, informative and timely: new issue of magazine features “high-quality” writing from QE’s Sixth Form economists

The 11th edition of The Econobethan – QE’s pupil-led magazine focusing on Economics, as well as on Politics and Sociology – spans the centuries and roams the continents.

It includes original writing from Year 12 pupils on topics ranging from the ancient world – the economic history of the Roman Empire – to the very contemporary concern of the climate crisis, and from the underlying causes of Africa’s poverty to Japan’s ‘apology culture’.

The 27-page magazine also has as its special theme, ‘Black history’, with four articles in a dedicated section. The Econobethan was published just ahead of this month’s launch of a statement expressing QE’s vision for a broad, diverse and inclusive curriculum.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “The Econobethan is always a stimulating read, and this issue is no exception, with high-quality, considered submissions from the contributors that should serve to inspire deeper thinking and research from other pupils.

“The theme of Black history is timely: through the launch of our long-term vision for a broad, diverse and inclusive curriculum, we seek to build on the very thoughtful work that has already been done at the School, ensuring that our pupils are well-equipped to thrive in our diverse, modern world.”

The Econobethan is edited by Aditya Kute, Avinash Srivastava and Nishanth Bhasuru. In their introductory editors’ note, they write that the magazine aims to “shed light on economic points of interest, as well as providing a platform for some of the School’s most talented writers to delve into current economic affairs”.

In the Black history section, Aditya looks at why Black History Month is important. He spotlights Sir Arthur Lewis, still the only Black winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics (which he won in 1979), and Claudette Colvin, a pioneer of the American civil rights movement, who, at the age of 15, was arrested in 1950s Alabama for refusing to give up her seat on a crowded bus to a white woman.

Aston Daniel looks in more detail at the work of Sir Arthur, while a piece from Avinash is entitled How Does Systemic Racism Continue to Impact Economic Outcomes for African Americans? and Keith Correia writes on How was the war on drugs in the US used as a segregation tool?

Elsewhere in The Econobethan, Nishanth explores Underworld Economics and concludes that while informal markets do cause ‘numerous issues’, nevertheless ‘contrary to the common belief, they aren’t completely negative’, since, for example, they ‘provide a pathway for low-earning families…to get by and survive’.

In the Languages section, Aayush Backory discusses Le fer et les finances: partie 1: l’économie du Luxembourg du 19ème siècle (Iron and finance Part 1: The economy of 19th century Luxembourg) and Arjun Patel writes in German on How do we Deal With the Climate Crisis? (Wie Bewältigen wir die Klimakrise?)

History in the making: sixth-formers hear politicians debate Ukraine on visit to Houses of Parliament

Sixth-formers studying Politics had a ringside seat as the House of Commons debated the war in Ukraine.

The 28 A-level students on a visit to Westminster watched as Foreign Secretary Liz Truss answered questions from MPs and described measures the Government was taking to help Ukraine. Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy responded for the Opposition, questioning whether enough was being done.

Politics teacher Liam Hargadon said: “We don’t always have the chance to see the Commons at work, so boys were really lucky to see top ministers debating the great issue of our time.”

Chipping Barnet MP Theresa Villiers, whose constituency includes QE, was also in the chamber endeavouring, ultimately unsuccessfully, to put a question.

The visit to the Palace of Westminster is normally an annual event for Year 12 Politics students, but Covid caused the cancellation of the trip last year, so this year both Year 12 and Year 13 boys went.

During their visit, the boys met Old Elizabethan James Cartlidge MP (OE 1985-1992), a junior minister in the Justice Department. He shared his fond memories of being an independent candidate in QE’s 1992 mock General Election and of hearing from visiting speakers from the political world while at the School.

“It was brilliant to see James Cartlidge again after 30 years,” said Mr Hargadon, who was the minister’s A-level Politics teacher back in 1992. “He has such fond memories of his time at QE and he’s clearly heading for high office. He was so generous with his time.”

During their visit to the Palace of Westminster, the group took in the House of Lords, Westminster Hall, the Royal Gallery and the Central Lobby.

The boys were accompanied not only by their teachers, but also by the three student teachers – Evan Burns, Nathaniel Austin-Mathley, and Ben Duncan – who are with QE this year as part of the long-established internship programme with the University of Connecticut.

The final part of the trip involved seeing political and historical landmarks in the Westminster area, including Parliament Square, with its statues of great statesmen and women, the nearby UK Supreme Court, Downing Street and the site of execution of King Charles I outside the Banqueting House on Whitehall.

It’s Biden! QE boys pick their winner in mock elections

Pupils overwhelmingly voted for Joe Biden in the School’s mock US elections, which were carefully modelled on the real poll taking place today on the other side of the Atlantic.

Boys voted in their forms yesterday on their first day back after the holiday, having spent the weeks before half-term finding out more about the two main presidential candidates and the whole American electoral process.

The results, which were announced to the forms today, show that the Democrats’ candidate easily broke through the 270-vote threshold needed to win the electoral college, gaining 444 of the 538 votes available. Forms representing big-hitting states such as California (with 55 votes) and New York (29) backed Biden, even if there were a few upsets, such as Florida (29) returning as Republican.

The popular vote was also emphatic: there were 821 votes for the Democrats, compared with just 322 for the Republicans. Of the six year groups voting, only Year 10 voted red (Republican), while Biden swept the board in Year 7.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “We saw this as a great opportunity for our pupils to expand their knowledge of politics and current affairs, and to enjoy the cut and thrust of an election themselves.

“Our History & Politics department and Extra-Curricular tutors took a lead in providing boys throughout the School with information and resources aimed at stimulating debate, and there were contributions from a number of our Year 12 Politics A-level students.

“We now wait with great interest to find out if American voters concur with the verdict of our boys!”

To start things off, a PowerPoint presentation on the basics of the election was shown to all the tutor groups.

In order to make the experience as realistic as possible, every tutor group was allocated a state. Each had the same number of votes as in the electoral college, ranging from Alaska, Wyoming, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Vermont, all with just three votes apiece, through to Texas, with 38, and California, with its 55.

Boys were challenged to research the state allocated to their form, including topics such as which party it normally votes for, what the major issues there are, and whether it is considered a ‘battleground state’.

To keep the mock election Covid-safe, most of the activities took place online, with links provided through a dedicated page of the School’s eQE digital platform, created by the History & Politics department.

To coincide with the actual election day, a US-themed lunch was served today in the QE Dining Hall: the menu including cheeseburgers, hot dogs and sweet potato fries, with cream soda and popcorn available, too.

Information and links on the eQE election page included:

  • Information-packed 10-minute podcasts created by Year 12 members of the QE Politics Society, Utsav Atri, Alexandre Lee and Ciaran Price.
  • QE’s own presidential debate, which was recorded as a video. Ciaran was again involved in this, speaking for Biden, while Ethan John, also of Year 12, represented Trump, with Christian Emmanuel putting the questions.
  • A series of opinion polls. Asked which candidate had performed better in the final presidential debate, for example, 114 boys chose Biden, while just 35 picked Trump.
  • An election forum, where boys have taken full advantage of the opportunity to field their own comments about the elections over the past few weeks in response to questions posted both by their teachers and by classmates.

The eQE page also featured a link to information about the elections for 35 Senate seats taking place at the same time as the presidential contest.

A world of difference: Model United Nations Club investigates countries’ perspectives and policies on Covid-19

While Covid-19 has raged around the world this term, members of QE’s Model United Nations Club have been examining the very different approaches to the pandemic taken around the globe. 

The 24 boys involved were each allocated a country, from Australia to Iceland and from the USA to North Korea. Each member, from Years 8 to 10, was given a brief to research his nation’s response to the crisis and look at the treatment for the virus and the global distribution of a vaccine in the future. 

Themet regularly using Zoom to discuss the huge issues and challenges facing the global community. 

Academic Enrichment Tutor Gillian Deakin said: “It has been great to see the boys adopting their different countries and examining their responses to Covid19. Every week they have contributed fascinating insights into how different countries have responded. 

“With countries as diverse as Japan, Iran, France, Kenya and the USA, the participants have had to get to grips with their often very different respective policies and perspectives.” 

The club is an academic simulation of the United Nations itself, where pupils take the roles of delegates from different countries and investigate possible solutions to global issues. 

The boys have also been learning how to write policy statements and resolutions in preparation for an MUN event at Magdalen College School, Oxford, in February next year.  

“They have gained real insight and understanding of the function of the different organisations within the UN in addition to an appreciation of the possibilities and challenges of the global development and distribution of a treatment or vaccination for Covid19,” added Miss Deakin. 

“The boys are all looking forward to returning to the School and preparing for next year’s miniMUN conference.” 

 The participants are listed below, each with his allocated country: 

Danny Adey (Year 10) – Japan; Eesa Ahmed (Year 9)  Saudi Arabia; Tejas Bansal (Year 8) – Germany; Dhruv Chadha (Year 9)  South Korea; Karan Chauhan (Year 8) China; Tharun Dhamodharan (Year 9) – India; Rahul Doshi (Year 10) – Russia; Kovid Gothi (Year 8) – France; Pranav Haller (Year 8) – USA; Seyed Jalili (Year 8) – Iran; Shaurya Madan (Year 8)  New ZealandDhruv Syam (Year 10) – Sweden; Rahul Kesavan (Year 10)  Sri Lanka; Saim Khan (Year 8) – Pakistan; Zaki Mustafa (Year 8) – UK; Jai Patel (Year 10)  South Africa; Vignesh Rajiv (Year 9) – Switzerland; Chanakya Seetharam (Year 8) Canada; Anban Senthilprabu (Year 9)  North Korea; Abhiraj Singh (Year 10) – Iceland; Sai Sivakumar (Year 9) – Australia; Mukund Soni (Year 10) – Italy, Anirudh Terdal (Year 8) – Kenya; Antony Yassa (Year 10)  Egypt. 


Mansimar’s winning prescription for economic progress in an independent UK

Sixth-former Mansimar Singh has won a national essay competition with his plea for the UK Government to do more to make Britain economically stronger in a post-Brexit world.

Mansimar’s entry took the top prize in the first-ever essay competition for schools to be run by TEAMGlobal, an independent educational foundation.

Entrants had to write a maximum of 1,500 words on the question: ‘Following the 2019 election, Boris Johnson urged “let the healing begin”. What do you suggest could be done to bring this about?’

He was inspired to enter by his interest in politics: “More specifically, I was interested in researching what an independent Britain would be like for myself and other young people and Boris Johnson’s plan for Britain after Brexit.”

Head of History & Politics Helen MacGregor said: “We have been encouraging our pupils not only to continue their curricular studies through the lockdown, but also to maintain their academic interests beyond the curriculum. Mansimar’s essay is an excellent example of this, and his success is richly deserved.”

In his 1,463-word composition, he cited sources including the House of Commons Library, the Office for National Statistics and the Financial Times.

Through his research, he says he developed “a greater understanding about how each industry in the UK has been uniquely impacted by Brexit, and the various complexities involved in revitalising and preparing them for operation in an independent Britain”.

TEAMGlobal – The European Atlantic Movement – is a charity that aims to enable young people to act as global citizens, empowering them to consider world issues and to play their part in resolving problems and promoting solutions.

The competition was open to all Year 12 students. Mansimar’s £200 cash prize and a certificate are being sent to the School so they can be presented to him once the School reopens to more pupils. The prize also includes an invitation to a future TEAMGlobal Members’ Day, including tea at the House of Lords.

“My analysis of this research and my own opinions ultimately formulated my response to the essay,” Mansimar said. His main contentions were that:

  • “The Government must increase an independent UK’s attractiveness for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to minimise the short to medium-term impacts on the economy and, in the long term, prepare it to become less reliant upon the EU.”
  • This can be achieved by building upon the UK’s existing ‘knowledge economy’ by increasing the skills of young people in education through increased school funding and greater equality of opportunity in accessing alternatives to university, such as high-quality apprenticeships.
  • The “underlying socioeconomic factors behind the Brexit vote”, such as regional inequalities, need to be addressed by significantly investing in communities outside the typical investment hotspots, such as London.
  • This should, in turn, be achieved by delivering on the Prime Minister’s promise of a ‘transport revolution’ to help increase the mobility of labour, preventing it from concentrating within a few, small regions.
  • Existing jobs must be protected and further job creation encouraged by revitalising local industries, attracting greater investment in growing sectors and maintaining the strengths of well-established ones, such as the financial sector.

All of this, he concluded, would “act as an engine that will fuel future economic growth in an independent Britain, but, crucially, the benefits of future economic progress will be more evenly spread and will help previously struggling communities to thrive”.

Read Mansimar’s essay here.

Voice of the pupils: Labour triumph in QE’s mock vote

A mock General Election at QE has yielded a result that is starkly different to this week’s national poll.

With each of the School’s 56 forms deemed a constituency and all boys eligible to vote, Labour emerged from the QE election as the largest single party, winning 18 seats, yet it fell well short of the 29 seats needed for an overall majority.

Following discussions, the Green Party – which came in third place, with 10 seats, behind the Conservatives, on 13 – entered a formal coalition, allowing Labour to form a minority administration, with further support from the Liberal Democrats agreed on a ‘confidence and supply’ basis.

The fifth party taking part – the Brexit Party – gained 5 seats, with 10% of the vote, in contrast to the actual General Election, in which the party failed to take a single constituency.

Voter turnout was more than 20% higher than in Thursday’s national vote: 88%, or 1,116, boys voted.

There was particular excitement in three forms where the results were tied. The winners of these seats were decided by the toss of a coin between the two tied parties. The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats each won one seat in this way.

Headmaster Neil Enright, in his capacity as Chief Returning Officer, declared the results.

In the weeks leading up to the vote, each of the five parties taking part reviewed the full manifestos produced by their respective parties in the General Election and picked out five key pledges for the QE campaign. These were then arranged on posters that were displayed at the School.

A lunchtime hustings was held earlier this month in the Main School Hall at which boys had the opportunity to question the five candidates, who were (pictured left-right): Year 9’s Ugan Pretheshan (Brexit); Year 11’s Ethan John (Conservative); Year 13’s Haider Jabir (Green); Year 12’s Eeshan Banerjee (Labour) and Year 11’s Sultan Khokhar (Lib Dem). The debate was chaired by Politics teacher Liam Hargadon – billed as QE’s answer to Andrew Neil – although since all the candidates turned up for the event, no ice sculptures were used!

Centre of attention: visiting the Mother of Parliaments in our ‘turbulent times’

A-level Politics students had the chance to see the reality behind their textbooks on a trip to the Houses of Parliament.

Their visit gave them a vivid experience of Westminster life inside and outside the House of Commons chamber, including the opportunity to see leading politicians at first-hand, to watch demonstrations by campaigners on both sides of the Brexit divide and to observe lobbying by former employees of Thomas Cook.

And during an education workshop, the Year 12 boys also had a chance to try their own hand at law-making.

Politics teacher Liam Hargadon, who organised the trip, said: “We have been living through turbulent times, with greatly increased public attention to developments. Much has been said about how important the views of young people should be. It’s vital they understand the opportunities to make their voices heard.”

The weekday visit provided boys with the opportunity to tour the Central Lobby and committee rooms, as well as the public gallery of the House of Commons.

“We saw Theresa May make her first speech in parliament since standing down as PM, talking about legislation to limit abuses within families.”

Others in the Commons chamber included outgoing Speaker John Bercow and Dr Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade until July this year, while among those the boys saw in the precincts of the Palace of Westminster were former Chancellor Philip Hammond and former Labour Cabinet Minister Lord (Peter) Hain.

“The reality of Parliament was on show to the boys; outside Parliament, both sides in the Brexit debate were seeking to make their presence felt. In addition, about 50 members of staff from the recently crashed Thomas Cook travel firm were seeking to lobby MPs,” said Mr Hargadon.

In the workshop, the boys were given the chance to propose a law. They suggested a bigger police presence in schools, partly to provide greater re-assurance and security, but also to help break down barriers between police and young people.

Team storm through to European Youth Parliament national session for third year in a row

Teamwork, talent and exemplary preparation all played their part in the success of QE’s eight-strong team in the South East Regional Session of the European Youth Parliament.

The Year 12 boys now progress to this summer’s national round of the debating competition for the third consecutive year.

Guiding them to their success at the regional forum hosted by Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls was Academic Enrichment Tutor Helen Davies. “The team put in a fantastic performance head-and-shoulders above their rivals, being described as ‘too keen and too good’ by the chair of the session!” she said.

“Their success was down to solid preparation before the event and also excellent teamwork and the participation of all eight members, who all spoke many times during the session.”

“In addition to defending the resolution which we had been allocated in advance (for SEDE – the Committee on Security and Defence), the boys’ performance also won them the right to make key ‘attack speeches’ on other resolutions over the course of the day.”

The SEDE resolution stated: “Given the discovery of Russian influence on campaigns orchestrated via social media, and the upcoming European elections in 2019, what steps can the EU take to make sure its citizens are correctly informed and to ensure the security of the election?”

In his opening defence speech, Saifullah Shah said: “Russia is seeking to undermine the very fabric of our society by spreading disinformation.” And in his closing defence speech, Chris Hall stated that the ability of disabled and otherwise immobilised people to vote would be greatly enhanced by online voting.

Among the speakers on other resolutions, Ryan Ratnam, at the Committee on Human Rights, addressed the issue of the age at which the Holocaust should be taught in the National Curriculum. Alex Beard gave a summation in a closing speech for the same committee, attacking the complete lack of coverage of anti-Semitism in the resolution, opining that it was therefore not fit for the 21st century. Referring back to an analogy employed by the proposing committee in their opening speech, and contradicting the view taken by them, he said: “This motion is akin to a tricycle – it is childish and naïve. Unfortunately, during the course of this debate, we can see that the wheels of the proverbial tricycle have fallen off.”

The day ended with a highly entertaining ‘French debate’ in which students debated a final motion in a language of their choice, said Miss Davies: Alex Beard contributed in both French and German.

“The boys displayed good teamwork and in-depth knowledge on each of the resolutions debated during the day – the product of their general excellent political knowledge and their prior research,” she said. “The event displayed well the excellent tradition of public speaking and debating which is upheld at QE, as all eight boys spoke extremely well, which set us apart from the other schools.

“It was very nice to see the legacy of QE success within the EYP organisation: one of the key organisers for this event was Aditya Ravindrakumar, of Year 13, who was part of the QE team which qualified for the EYP National Session in 2018.”

The 2019 QE team comprises: Alex Beard; Kieran Dhrona; Deeps Gandhi; Hanif Gofur; Chris Hall; Denis O’Sullivan; Ryan Ratnam and Saifullah Shah.

Also going through to the nationals are the City of London School for Girls.

Boys learn about the burning issue of feminism from Everyday Sexism founder

Leading activist and writer Laura Bates impressed QE sixth-formers with a wide-ranging lecture on modern feminism.

The founder of the Everyday Sexism Project covered topics including definitions of feminism, transgender matters, the approach feminists should adopt to cultures elsewhere and the advice that should be given to young men in relationships with women. She also discussed her new Young Adult fiction book, The Burning.

After an invitation from hosts St Albans High School for Girls, a dozen Year 12 A-level Politics students attended the lecture, accompanied by Head of Year 12 and History & Politics teacher Lottie Coleman and Head of Politics Liam Hargadon. The School has selected feminism as an option within the A-Level Politics core syllabus.

“It was a really excellent talk,” said Miss Coleman. “She was so articulate and informed on the subject of feminism without being dogmatic, making her an incredibly impressive speaker.”

One of the QE sixth-formers, Rushil Shah, praised Ms Bates’ “well-articulated and convincing talk…which was not repetitive or droning at all,” adding that he had been impressed by her use of statistics. His classmate, Leo Kucera, praised her for addressing male stereotypes in society and for “confidently and accurately answering questions”.

Ms Bates started the Everyday Sexism Project website in 2012, five years after graduating from Cambridge with a degree in English Literature. The aim of the site is to document examples of sexism from around the world.

She spoke initially of her own experiences of sexism, including a Cambridge don who wore a black armband on the anniversary of women’s first admission to the university.

To illustrate her claim of the inequality facing women, she cited the fact that there are more men called John leading FTSE100 companies than women!

She stressed the need to discuss sexism and feminism with young men in relationships, saying that the suggestion sometimes made that this is a ‘minefield’ area is actually insulting to young men.

Regarding trans matters and how feminism applies in this area, she pointed out that women are not an homogenous group anyway, so the variety of experience seen among trans people should not be an issue.

Ms Bates felt that it is not the job of western feminists to impose their ideals in other parts of the world; they should instead concentrate on giving feminists from other cultures a platform.

Issues raised in a question-and-answer session after the lecture included:

  • Discrimination against women in careers – Ms Bates said that the fact that women have children is not sufficient to explain this away
  • Why women and men tend to choose certain careers – her view was that this is due to nurture, such as children being given ‘gendered’ toys
  • Workplace gender quotas – the current situation is not a true meritocracy, so quotas are not inherently unfair, she said. They might speed up the process of attaining equality as a short-term step, alongside other measures.

Besides Leo and Rushil, the QE attendees were: Alex Beard; Chris Hall; Senan Karunadhara; Tohgo Kimura; Mehdi Reza Lilani; Aditya Mukopadhyay; Josh Osman; Ryan Ratnam; Oscar Robinson and Teg Singh.