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Vote for a tie-free future!

School candidates' pledges range from improving toilets to ousting Robert Mugabe. Stephen Lucas reports

Could a savvy pledge to ban school ties clinch the election for the Purple Protectors?

Year 6 pupils at Brabyns prep, Marple, Stockport, have split into three parties, complete with rosettes, advertising campaigns and manifestos, and are fighting their own general election.

Taking on the Purple Protectors is Red Thursday, which has promised a complete ban on smoking, the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and more project-based homework. Also running, the Cool Campaigners, have vowed to send troops into Zimbabwe to oust Mugabe and provide more free toilets in Marple.

It is too close to call at the moment but Lee Sanders, headteacher, said:

"The Purple Protectors said they will ban school ties if they are elected, and this could prove popular as it is getting hotter and nobody wants to wear ties in the heat."

Julie Lawford, Year 6 teacher, said: "There have been no strong-arm tactics but some unofficial campaigning started a day early when the Year 6s were serving the nursery children their lunches. They were saying vote for us while they were cutting their carrots."

Each party has a leader, a deputy leader, a home, foreign, health and education secretary and a chancellor of the exchequer. Pupils researched the political parties' manifestos on the Children's BBC Newsround website.

Activists are canvassing during breaks and lessons. Next Thursday there will be a hustings where parties will give a 10-minute talk to persuade pupils to vote for them.

On Friday, Andrew Graystone, Labour candidate for Hazel Grove, which covers Marple, offered pupils some advice on how to run a campaign: "We ironed out the creases in some of their manifestos so they should be ready to start campaigning properly next Thursday; once the school play is out of the way."

Matthew Durrant, 11, Red Thursday's chancellor of the exchequer, said it was his prowess at maths that won him the role. He added: "I asked Mr Graystone why there was so much shouting in the House of Commons. They all behave like a silly bunch of kids."

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