By Hefin Rees Edwards
On Monday 12th February in a packed out room in Alington House, five heads of different Durham political societies thrashed it out over 90 minutes in a Question Time-style debate. The panel consisted of Joe Dharampal-Hornby (Labour), Ben Cooper (Conservatives), Felicity Mccourt (Liberal), Jo Chandler (Greens), Hugo Lunn (Free Market Association) and was hosted by Sam Berry of The Bubble.
Nearly all of the panellists supported strike action to various degrees. Ben Cooper, however, noted how university lecturers earn nearly three times the national average wage and students’ education should be prioritised over lecturers’ pensions.
Durham’s low intake of state school applicants
Joe Dharampal-Hornby highlighted Durham’s poor image problem with working-class students, with reference to Trev’s Rugby Club’s now infamous Miners’ Strike-themed social, and called for the reintroduction and strengthening of grants for disadvantaged students. Cooper cited his working-class roots as proof anyone can make it to Durham – Jo Chandler retorted: “we’re not talking about the people who are here, but about the people who aren’t.”
Clear party divides emerged here, with Dharampal-Hornby and Cooper clashing over the potential costs of renationalising industries. Hugo Lunn noted the free market approach had worked in Japanese train services and proposed the UK should retain privatisation of its railway infrastructure in order to get the best services. Chandler argued a ‘green’ perspective was needed to ensure Britain has clean, sustainable national industries.
Quotas for parliament
The Green and Labour society representatives were supportive of minority shortlists in elections, while the other panellists were against them, citing the need for “organic” development of equality rather than state intervention in democracy. One audience member suggested there was a richer conception of society than labelling people according to their minority status.
Free movement of people and a federal Europe were the hot talking-points here. All panellists recognised immigration was important to the UK, though Cooper noted the country should respect the result of the EU referendum and end the free movement of people. Felicity McCourt questioned how an EU army could work in conjunction with NATO.
Potential future PMs
Pretty much split down party lines, with nearly all rejecting the idea of Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Overall this was a successful debate carried out in a fairly courteous manner with a few partisan digs sprinkled in. There was good, lively debate between the panellists and audience which reflected a broad range of political views.
Graphic: The Bubble