Cabinet Member at Benenden Back to archive
9th October 2017

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has told Benenden pupils that one of them could be a future Prime Minister.

Benenden was delighted on Friday night to welcome the Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, who gave a lecture to the Sixth Form about politics and his career.

Mr Brokenshire was appointed to Theresa May’s Cabinet in July 2016. His brief involves responsibility for ensuring the operation of the devolution settlement, national security and seeing that Northern Ireland’s interests are promoted and advanced through the Brexit negotiations.

Mr Brokenshire visited Benenden at the end of a week which has featured the Conservative Party Conference and at a time when he is trying to reinstate a functioning Executive in Northern Ireland.

In a wide-ranging lecture in Benenden’s Theatre, Mr Brokenshire discussed topics including his career, Brexit, the Northern Ireland peace process and security in the UK.

He also spoke at length about his political values and encouraged Benenden girls to pursue their interest in politics, regardless of their political beliefs.

He said: “Who knows, one of you in this audience could be the next PM. I want you to follow your passions through. Whatever your politics, it’s so important to have people interested in what’s going on in the community, interested in what’s happening in the country and the world, and to stand up and be counted and to make a difference. That’s what politics is all about.”

He added: “Don’t let anything stand in your way. You can do anything you want to do if you want to do it enough.”

During a Q&A, Mr Brokenshire faced questions from Benenden girls on a range of issues, including the impact of Brexit on the Irish border, why the Conservatives lost their Parliamentary majority at the general election, why doesn’t the US embrace a national health service, the makeup of the House of Lords, abortion in Northern Ireland and his views on Theresa May’s leadership.

On this latter point, Mr Brokenshire described her as “an incredible politician” and said he fully supported her as Prime Minister, adding: “She absolutely has the purpose and the leadership we require as a country to take us through this period in our politics.”

Afterwards Mr Brokenshire praised the Benenden pupils, saying: “It was a privilege to have been here tonight and I enjoyed the engagement and interest of all the students. There were some really insightful questions that put me on my mettle and I was as challenged as [I am by] a Question Time audience.

“It’s great to see that interest in politics and I hope that many of the students here might well go on to be the young politicians of tomorrow.”