Youth lobby finds Blair smarm-free

7th March 1997 at 00:00
Education was top of the agenda when teenagers met leading politicians at Westminster this week. Seven members of BBCTV Newsround's Press Pack club grilled John Major, Tony Blair and Paddy Ashdown for a special programme to be broadcast today (4.55pm BBC1).

The party leaders were put on the spot by the junior journalists who quizzed them about national tests, class sizes, homework and selection.

Emma Preece, 13, from Mountbatten School in Romsey, Hampshire, was surprised by Tony Blair. "A couple of people had said that he was supposed to be really smarmy but he didn't seem like that to me. He was much nicer than I expected. "

Asked why he wouldn't allow more selective schools if elected even though he sends his son to one, Mr Blair replied: "I think it would be ridiculous if we came in as a government and spent our time trying to do away with schools that are working."

John Major was "very friendly" but Emma wasn't so keen on his support for testing. "I have to take mine soon. He said they were just fine and that tests were very important."

Thomas Ebbutt, 14, from Waseley Hills High School in Birmingham, said the Prime Minister came across as a "normal person" but he "went off the point slightly". "Politicians should take more notice of young people's opinions because we are the voters of tomorrow, " he said.

Helen Davies, also 14, from Ysgol Bryn Alyn in Wrexham, thought Paddy Ashdown was "down to earth and relaxed" but was disappointed by his lack of enthusiasm for a Minister of Children.

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