THE drama of General Election night might have been played out at the town's Castle Leisure Centre - but there was something of a dress rehearsal at Holy Cross College two days earlier.

Students at the college on Manchester Road took Bury's election candidates to task in a debate ahead of the May 7 election.

The pupils, many of whom were about to vote in their first election, put questions to candidates from both the Bury North and Bury South constituencies.

Around 100 students attended the debate, which brought together Bury North contenders David Nuttall (Conservative), James Frith (Labour), Ian Henderson (UKIP), and John Southworth (Green), and Bury South candidates Daniel Critchlow (Conservative), Ivan Lewis (Labour), Seamus Martin (UKIP), and Glynn Heath (Green).

During the debate, the politicians were questioned on topics such as education, lowering the voting age, austerity, and renewing Trident.

Ged Murphy, the college's head of politics and economics, said: “The students gained a great deal from the visit and I would like to thank the candidates for their time at a busy point in the campaign.

"I think the debate really helped to focus the students' minds and showed them the importance of the General Election.

"It was a good opportunity for the candidates to set across their own point of view, challenge their opponents, and maybe pick up a few late votes too.

"The candidates responded very well, and we had a few students arriving late on Friday after staying up for the election so clearly there was a good deal of interest."

Several students were also involved with ex-Labour leader Ed Miliband's trip to Bury during the campaign, while Home Secretary Theresa May also paid the college a visit to take questions from students in the weeks leading up to polling day.

The college had held similar debates before previous elections, but this was the first time candidates from both Bury constituencies were invited to take part.

Mr Nuttall held on to his Bury North seat by less than 400 votes after a dramatic race which required a recount, while Mr Lewis secured a fifth consecutive term as MP for Bury South, with an increased majority of 4,922.