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My shoplifting shame - by Labour candidate Neil Coyle

The news that Labour parliamentary candidate Neil Coyle was arrested for shoplifting at the age of 10 was the most eye-catching revelation at Friday's Bermondsey & Old Southwark election question time hosted by ARK Globe Academy.

Pupils from across the ARK Globe Academy secondary school gathered in the sixth form centre for the after-school debate on Friday.

Six candidates took part in the debate: Kingsley Abrams (TUSC), Andrew Beadle (UKIP), Neil Coyle (Labour), Steve Freeman (Republican Socialist), Lucy Hall (independent) and Simon Hughes (Lib Dem).

The hour-long session was ably chaired by head girl Zareen who didn't allow the candidates to waffle.

Questions covered the Aylesbury Estate regeneration, opportunities for young people, immigration and how to improve our communities – but it was the question from Ryan in year 12 who asked the candidates what they regretted in their political careers which produced the biggest revelation of the afternoon.

Labour's Neil Coyle said: "When I was 10 years old I was arrested for shoplifting ... I think it was LEGO.

"Of course I regret being in trouble with the police at that age ... it was very sad for my family and my grandparents in particular who didn't want me to be in trouble.

"I did go on to get a commendation from the police for helping to catch some armed robbers, so I feel it balanced out. Swings and roundabouts!"

Independent candidate Lucy Hall said her biggest regret was voting for the Liberal Democrats in 2010, whilst TUSC's Kingsley Abrams said he regretted not working harder to secure the leadership of Merton Council when he was a Labour councillor in that borough.

Simon Hughes said he regretted that some of his political objectives to achieve a fairer society had not yet been achieved.

At the end of the debate principal Matt Jones invited pupils to indicate their support for the candidates in a show of hands.

Labour's Neil Coyle was the clear winner, with Simon Hughes in second place. Kingsley Abrams, Steve Freeman and Lucy Hall each had a handful of supporters, whilst no hands were raised in favour of UKIP or the Conservatives.

Matt Jones said: "It's incredibly important to engage our students with politics to show them that they have a critical role to play in democracy.

"Our young people are the next leaders of their community and this valuable event gives them the opportunity to get their views heard on what really matters to them."

Listen to the debate in full on our YouTube channel

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