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The European Parliament comes to the University of East London

students studying at UEL

Students inspired to get involved in politics by a former MEP

A former MEP has called on University of East London (UEL) undergraduates and local school pupils to get involved in politics and “give voters a choice” by standing in elections. 

David Hallam, who stood as a Labour MEP from 1994-9, was a guest speaker at UEL’s ‘The European Parliament to Campus’ civic engagement project.

He told students that being invited to UEL was a particularly emotional occasion for him.

“It is a respected and sustainable university in east London, where I was born, educated, and grew up,” he said at a gathering of students and school pupils at UEL’s Docklands campus.

“It would be a mark of success if someone, even just one person, can say to themselves, ‘If this man, born and bred in Hackney, can become a politician at the EU Parliament, then I can pursue my goal’.”

Mr Hallam impressed the audience with stories about his involvement in the Northern Ireland peace process and the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Karim Simon Perrineau, a third-year International politics student, said he found the presentation inspirational. 
“David showed me that you can have some influence and change things in the world through politics,” he said. “It gave me hope that I could go and do the same thing.”

Motivated by Mr Hallam’s talk, school and college students from St Paul’s Way Trust, St Bonaventure’s, St Angela’s, and Havering Sixth Form College got to try their hand at EU-style political debating and voting on the issue of how Europe should handle the refugee crisis. 

Malachi Willis, from St Paul’s Way Trust who is studying for A-levels in politics, history, and classics, said the best part of the day was learning about differing views. “There is a wide range of views in Europe,” he said. “It has help me develop my own views on the topic.”  

Asked whether he would recommend politics to young people, Mr Hallam said, “Get involved in politics – vote in elections, get involved in local and national politics, even stand as a candidate. Sometimes, it is not about winning but about giving voters a choice.” 

The project was supported by the EU Former Members' Association and was organised by UEL’s Education and Community Partnerships, the Centre for Widening Participation Policy Research and the School of Social Sciences. 

Mr Hallam concluded his talk with a story about helping an elderly German man who wanted to claim several years of back-dated army pay and pension. Mr Hallam wrote a series of letters and the man eventually received the money owed to him.

He said: “What’s striking is that me, the son of a British World War II solider, could help an elderly man who fought in the German army in World War II. That, for me, is a sign of the new Europe.”