All politics is local!

On Tuesday, 4th June 2023, students from Year 10 and 12 were graced with the presence of the ever-exuberant and captivating John Sweeney, investigative journalist, author, and now hopeful Liberal Democrat candidate for Sutton Coldfield. He indulged the attentive audience with a selection of unparalleled experiences, from his time undercover in North Korea to his dealings with the Church of Scientology, while also providing interesting perspectives on global affairs, particularly concerning the ongoing situation in Ukraine and the tyranny of Vladimir Putin (whom he has in fact interviewed and nearly thrown up on as a result of a dodgy kebab—a story he enthusiastically divulged to us). Sweeney managed to maintain a humorous disposition while expertly educating all observers on the harsh reality of life in Russia and the constant pursuit of true democracy through the recounting of multiple ordeals with figures such as Alexei Navalny and even with Ukrainian soldiers who initially mistook him for a Russian spy.

Students and teachers alike were enthralled and therefore asked a range of questions, including those regarding the impact of social media on modern journalism, how former president Donald Trump has maintained seemingly high levels of popularity, and whether there is anything more sinister behind the relationship Russia has with the West, or if the fundamental disagreements between the two societies are so profound that peaceful coexistence may never be an option. Domestic policies were also discussed in depth, as Sweeney’s care for his constituency was displayed through his many ideas, including his desire for red deer to return to Sutton Park—after all, if they were good enough for Henry VIII, they are good enough for us.

Jack Gallagher 12PJO

He discussed the importance of democracy, acknowledging its flaws but emphasizing its value, especially after having experienced life in Putin’s Russia and North Korea. Referencing his time as an MP candidate for Sutton Coldfield, he expressed his frustration with those who choose not to vote. While I always understood the importance of democracy, hearing about his experiences in authoritarian regimes gave this sentiment a whole new depth. John Sweeney was an excellent speaker, and his passion for protecting democracy was evident. While I was somewhat familiar with many of the topics he discussed, his expert knowledge and real-world experience provided a deeper understanding.

Emils Jakubonis 12KOR