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Joel Weiner: my role in the leaders' debate

    The Jewish teenager who took on BNP leader
    Nick Griffin about the Holocaust during an edition of the BBC’s Question Time
    last year has taken centre stage again during the first party leaders’ televised
    election debate on ITV.

    Joel Weiner, 17-year-old son of Masorti Rabbi
    Chaim Weiner and a sixth-former at JFS,  asked a question about what prime
    minister Gordon Brown, Tory leader David Cameron and Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg
    would do about improving education. The teenager said pupils were being
    over-examined and under-taught, not enough money was being spent on schools and
    that in turn led to bigger class sizes.

    The day after his second appearance on
    national television, Joel revealed that he had become a minor celebrity on his
    return to school – but also had to deal with some irate teachers, who didn’t
    think much of his “under-taught” comment.

    Joel said: “Some of the teachers teased me
    about that and they were not too happy. But I explained that it was an attack on
    the system and I was very positive about my teachers. “It’s always very exciting
    having someone on television in front of a lot of viewers. There was a very
    good, positive atmosphere in school today and a lot of people congratulated
    me.”

    He also revealed how he became a member of
    the audience, even though one of the 76 rules laid down by the party leaders
    stipulated that the audience should come from within a 30-mile radius of the
    host city, in this case Manchester.

    Joel explained: “I applied on the ITV
    website. There was a link and I sent an e-mail with my question. I thought they
    might read out the question. I really didn’t think it would result in me being
    asked to be in the audience. I think the question might have attracted their
    attention.”

    He said 200 people came from around
    Manchester “but
    there were a handful, maybe three or four, who were asked because of the
    question they submitted. I was very lucky,” said the
    teenager.

    He showed he was passionate about the
    education question he asked, saying: “People are being crammed with knowledge
    that will go directly towards their examinations but won’t equip you for later
    life or society. It’s all about getting good grades and writing what the
    examiner will like rather than what is true. It’s not a good way and that’s what
    my question was about.”

    And he was not particularly satisfied with
    the answers he got. “They all managed to avoid it in their own way. Mr Clegg
    talked about small classes, Mr Brown about higher achievement – which was what I
    was complaining about – while Mr Cameron attacked
    bureaucracy.”

    He agreed with the general consensus that Mr
    Clegg “was the most impressive”.

    Joel sprang to fame during the edition of
    Question Time in October last year when BNP leader Nick Griffin was on the
    panel. He challenged Mr Griffin about his history of Holocaust denial. Mr
    Griffin claimed he had changed his mind about it but European law prevented him
    from saying why.

    “That was actually more nerve-wracking
    because I was asked to speak as a point from the audience. This time I had the
    question on paper in front of me,” he said. “However, it is very nerve-wracking
    to have a camera pointed in your face. Sat least I wasn’t standing up there for
    90 minutes.”

    Joel said he did have a party allegiance but
    did not want to reveal which one he supported. “I can’t go out canvassing
    because I have exams coming up,” he said.

    He is planning to study history at university
    but doesn’t want to be an MP. “I might want to work in some political realm
    behind the scenes, maybe as a diplomat, but I have plenty of time to think about
    it.”

    His first thought, though, was another
    appearance on television – an interview on BBC
    London.

     

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