Renowned political journalist and commentator Matthew Parris was guest speaker at Benenden School last night (Wednesday 18 May).
Mr Parris, a former Conservative MP turned political columnist for the Times, is one of the UK’s foremost political commentators. He joined Sixth Formers for dinner before he offered students, staff and parents his thoughts on the potential repercussions of the EU Referendum.
He said that whichever way the vote went, David Cameron would endure a tough time from his party, arguing that the Prime Minister would have to resign immediately in the event of a Leave vote but also warned of the bitterness that could follow a Remain vote. He said: “There will be murder within the Conservative Party to get rid of Cameron as a revenge for winning the Referendum vote.”
On the allegations of ‘Project Fear’ – the accusations that the Remain side, in particular, are using scare tactics to win the Referendum – he said: “Project Fear stops you falling off a cliff. It’s not necessarily wrong to warn people of the consequences that affect them.”
Mr Parris was critical of Boris Johnson’s credentials as a future Prime Minister and said he would prefer George Osborne to succeed Mr Cameron, despite the Chancellor suffering from what he called a “personality problem”. He also said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, despite the largely negative media coverage he has received, stood a chance of winning the next General Election.
Mr Parris was self-deprecating about his own career, saying he had “failed at four jobs”, and offered students an unusual take on the adage “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” To laughter in the audience, he said: “If you don’t succeed two or three times in a row, give up. You will sooner or later find the thing that you want to do.”
Mr Parris said afterwards: “As a journalist I’m writing into a void because I don’t know what response I’m getting from my readers but coming to a school like this, I have a sea of intelligent faces looking at me and a hail of intelligent questions, which is an absolute pleasure.”
Benenden School Headmistress Samantha Price said: “Matthew Parris was a marvellously entertaining speaker who was incredibly thought-provoking and offered us first-hand insight into the fascinating world of politics.
“The sheer volume of questions from girls showed how interested they were - despite what we often hear about young people - and how politically engaged girls at Benenden are. We are incredibly grateful to Mr Parris for sharing his thoughts with us and will watch with interest to see how many of his predictions become reality over the next few months.”
Matthew Parris talks to staff, student and parents at Benenden