Students Debate

Last night 22 November 2012 Greenwich Conservatives spokesmen attended a debate at the University of Greenwich with the University Labour Society. The debate was chaired by the BA Politics Course Leader; John McLean.

For the Conservatives Cllr Matt Clare, Councillor for Eltham South and Opposition Spokesman for Community Safety and the Environment and Thomas Turrell, Deputy Chairman (Membership & Finance) of Greenwich Conservatives and out-going President of the Conservative Society at the University.  Labour had their society Chairman speak with one of the Labour Councillors for Blackheath in Lewisham.

The 2 debate covered issues such as, what do the Police Commissioner Elections tell us about the state of the parties, if Scotland can have an In/out referendum why can’t the UK, and who does the panel think will be the next Mayor of London. These were set questions agreed in advance of the debate and students were also given the chance to ask their own surprise questions to catch the panel off guard, these questions included, what happens to the Government after the deficit is gone (claiming this Governments mission is to bring down debt) and if Wales gets free prescription why can’t England. Chairman of the Conservative Society, Oliver Clark also asked the Labour spokesmen whether it was fair that the Labour-run Council in Greenwich is taking money from Schools to give to Trade Unions and the Labour spokesmen were unable to answer.

In the first question Labour attacked the police and attacked giving communities the power over policing where as Matt Clare highlighted that 15% turnout is disappointing but said in France when they introduced Regional Government they had very low voter turnout but turnout has increased and the French people were bitterly opposed to proposals to replace the new Regional Governments later on, Cllr. Matt Clare said we need time to adjust to the new system. Thomas attacked Labour for wanting to keep Police Authorities and their refusal to hand powers to local people, he said that these elections tell us more than any opinion poll can pointing out that the Conservatives won at least 1 seat in every region compared to Labour only winning 1 seat in Wales and the rest of their seat in the North and Midlands, winning no seats in the South East or South West, Thomas pointing out that Labour under performed on expectations so the election shows we are heading for another hung Parliament with the Conservatives remaining the largest party.

The second question; about the Scotland Referendum and an EU referendum, Thomas was first to answer saying that it is inconsistent to argue that Scotland should not get the vote but saying the UK should. Thomas argued it was right Scotland has this vote and that the UK should get an EU referendum, but the EU is not in a position to vote yet as we do not know what the new EU, emerging from the wreck of the Euro-zone crisis will look like saying; “we cannot walk into a cloud of smoke not knowing what is on the other side”. The Labour for Blackheath agreed with Thomas, as did Matt Clare, arguing that he thinks Europe has benefits for the UK and therefore we need to be ensuring we know exactly what we are voting for. The Chairman of the Labour Society argued that there should be no vote on the European Union and echoed the Labour Leader earlier this week saying “we could sleepwalk into European Exit”. The panel then clashed on issues such as changing the voting system and whether referendums were really a fair way to decide policy.
The third question was a light hearted fun question at the end; who will be the next Mayor of London, Thomas was first to go again arguing that a third term is always un-productive as history tells us from both Blair and Thatcher, Thomas suggested that Labour could field David Lammby and the Conservatives should field James Cleverly. The Labour Councillor suggested that one of the Council Leaders in London should come forward, Matt Clare suggested that Lord Coe would be good but properly wouldn’t run and that Chuka Umunna may do it when his ambitions in Parliament remain unfulfilled and the Chairman of the Labour Society that the MP for Eltham should do it.

The debate produced a good turnout of students most of which all had a question to ask or a contribution to make; there was a lot of passion in the room which fuelled the debate. The debate was well enjoyed by students and panellists alike.