Hear from one of the student prosecutors from the recent mock trial of Richard Drax MP
By Astrid Parrett •
Published 24 September, 2021
The main reason why I took Richard Drax to trial is that I am angry.
Richard Drax has been MP of South Dorset since I was 9. I’m now 19, soon going onto 20 and he is still my MP. Growing up there, I call Weymouth and Portland ‘home’. It’s a beautiful place with clear beaches and amazing coastal paths. However, what a lot of people do not know outside, is that Weymouth and Portland are suffering.
I live in Westham, Weymouth, one of the most deprived areas in the country. Every day I witness things that many of my university friends rarely see. We have a housing crisis with one of the highest levels of homelessness in the UK. This includes child homelessness.
We have a massive problem with drug and alcohol dependency as well. I witnessed this at secondary school. Children with whom I went to school have been exploited by county lines and are still involved with it today.
In Dorset, we have more children who are eligible for free school meals than the national average. Fewer young people in Dorset go to higher education than average.
We are not just struggling with deprivation. Like the rest of the country, we will too be deeply affected by the climate crisis. In 30 years, my home is predicted to be underwater.
The list of social issues feels endless. Many people will argue that Drax is not responsible for the issues in South Dorset. I do not think that Drax is solely responsible, but he is part of a system that is supporting the cycle of despair.
He voted against Free School Meals during the lockdown. It worries me to think that children were going hungry until a famous footballer intervened. Drax has voted for bills that restrict legal aid. It angers me that people I grew up with are struggling to find legal representation. He has voted against measures to prevent climate change. It scares me to know that my home will be washed away before I am his age.
He has called homosexuality ‘a questionable sexual conduct’. I have friends in his constituency who are scared to be able to express their sexuality. Drax has also said that women shouldn’t fight on the frontline and that they ‘should leave the real fighting to men’. I know plenty of women who are strong and capable enough to be on the frontline.
I didn’t know he said all these things until the 3DC project prompted me to research on him. How can I vote with an informed view if I do not know what my MP is saying?
That’s another reason why I decided to take the great opportunity offered by 3DC. It was a place to inform other young people about their MP. It was not a place to ‘brainwash’ them. For me, it was to simply educate them about what their political representative is saying.
I strongly believe in the right to a fair trial. We invited Richard Drax, but he unfortunately did not even respond. I had looked forward to meeting him and have a discussion with him about Weymouth. Lucky for Drax, he had a great defence team. Ben, Cressida and Ella gave me and the rest of the prosecution a hard time. They were brilliant!
As fun as the trial was, there was a particularly emotional moment. Carralyn Parkes (Labour Councillor for Underhill, Portland) was asked a question by a 15 year old member of the Jury. He stated how his school had been closed in Portland and then asked Carralyn how he can get involved locally in politics.
At that moment, I and the rest of the prosecution felt like our main job was done. Even if one person got involved in politics (on whatever side, left or right), it was brilliant. Education is the bedrock of society.
Astrid Parrett is from Weymouth, Dorset. She went to Budmouth College (Weymouth) and Thomas Hardye School (Dorchester). She is currently at Durham University studying Law.