FIRST there was speed dating, catering for the nation s lonely hearts. Now the romance has been replaced with policies on prisons and policing as speed dating goes political. Jade Goody s racist outburst and the hanging of Saddam Hussein were two of the

MP Djanogly with Emily Edwards.

FIRST there was speed dating, catering for the nation's lonely hearts.

Now the romance has been replaced with policies on prisons and policing as speed dating goes political.

Jade Goody's racist outburst and the hanging of Saddam Hussein were two of the controversial topics politicians were grilled about during a political speed dating event, on Friday, at Sawtry Community College.

It gave 17 Year 11 pupils the chance to pose questions to 10 Cambridgeshire politicians.

Each student was given three minutes to question either a local councillor or MP before they moved on to their next interview.

Citizenship teacher Emma Letman said she had organised the event to encourage better communication between political figures and youngsters. "By giving students a chance to have one-to-one time with politicians, they were able to discuss the matters they feel are most relevant to themselves.

"The morning proved a wonderful and invaluable experience for both the students and the politicians," she said.

Shailesh Vara, MP for North West Cambridgeshire, Jonathan Djanogly, MP for Huntingdon, and Councillor Jeff Dutton, the Mayor of Huntingdon, were all put through their paces along with Richard Tuplin, Joyce Day, Ann Beavor, Mac McGuire, Sir Peter Brown, Ken Heaver-Smith and Bill Hensley. Topics varied from the war in Iraq, overcrowded prisons and the education system.

Emily Edwards wanted to know if GCSEs were getting easier. Mr Djanogly replied: "It is clear something is happening as we have had a clear increase in results.

"But I think it is unfair to say they are getting easier because I know how hard children work for their GCSEs."

Emily also asked Mr Djanogly for his thoughts about Jade Goody's racist comments on Channel 4 show Big Brother.

Although the Tory MP admitted he did not usually watch the show, he had tuned in following the press coverage. "I think her comments were nasty and she is setting a bad example," he said.

Daniel Owen asked if the MPs and councillors thought a Home Office request to jail only the most serious offenders would lead to an increase in petty crime.

He told The Hunts Post: "Everyone I spoke to agreed this was a serious issue and said ships should be converted to make more space for prisoners."

Daniel also asked Mr Vara why youngsters had to pay to go to university. The MP replied by saying "it is not the best situation" but there was not enough money to go around.

Mr Vara said families were getting into debt because some people were unable to find jobs once they had left university because courses were not geared enough to meet the needs of employers.

Josh Dixon asked Cllr Dutton whether he thought Saddam Hussein's hanging was handled fairly.

Cllr Dutton said: "I do not agree with what the man did, but he was totally humiliated and people should never have been allowed to film his hanging on mobile phones."

After the event, Mr Vara told The Hunts Post that, despite being faced with some hard-hitting questions, he was glad to have taken part.

"I was pleased to be afforded the opportunity to meet the bright young faces of the local area and enjoyed answering questions from some of the country's future political decision-makers.

"Encouraging our young people to participate in the political process is absolutely vital to the future success of the whole country."

Mr Vara was so impressed by the pupils that he offered to give them a tour of the House of Commons.