Debating Society host Question Time with presidential candidates

Sidney Pinsent debriefs us on the warm up to the 2018 Debate Series

Sidney Pinsent
2nd March 2018
Debating Society Secretary, Chris Murray, was a participant in the Presidential debate | Image: Newcastle University Debating Society

Newcastle Debating Society gave Students their first opportunity to question NUSU presidential candidates and Activities officer candidates.

Christopher Murray and Holly Waddell set out their presidential manifestos before students scrutinised their ideas and put forward some of their own. Unfortunately the two other candidates, Raffaello Marioni and Ala’a Otain, were unable to attend the event.

Chris Murray introduced the evening with focus on housing, support for stressed students and a night bus service. Forwarding her working class credentials, Holly Waddell’s manifesto aimed to increase representation, empower students and increase the availability of healthy food and free exercise classes.

Ronnie Reid’s recent campaign against the strikes shaped early discussions. Students at the event felt Reid’s stance didn’t represent Newcastle students and understood that the candidates political position might shape future policy as much as their manifestos.

Both Holly and Chris made their positions clear against the strike; Holly reminding students that she recently put forward in opposition motion against Ronnie Reid that the Union should support the strikes.

Chris Murray said he “supports the right to strike” and would represent student interests such as campaign for fee compensation and automatic extension of assignments.

Both candidates agreed major funding was necessary for the underfunded and understaffed Wellbeing Services

Both candidates have experience in society committees, Holly is also the current Student Parents, Guardians and Carers Officer. Chris is chairman of the Conservatives society. When questioned about whether his politics influence his leadership he insisted “not all conservatives represent the conservative line”.

Many ideas from the candidates were influenced by successful campaigns from other university unions. Chris Murray forwarded a ‘rate my landlord’ website recently introduced in Leeds University, on top of his idea of a student-run night bus service for stranded students on nights out, as seen at Durham University.

Students and Holly Waddell questioned the safety of the night bus service before Murray assured them they would receive training. Holly Waddell's idea of having one ticket for all public transport was questioned before assuring students it has been successfully campaigned for in other university cities.

Both candidates agreed major funding was necessary for the underfunded and understaffed Wellbeing Services.

The three Activities Officer candidates - Josh Cook, Errol Kerr and Sophie McDermott - then introduced their manifestos. Members of the audience forwarded their frustration at the requirements of new societies to be verified.

Josh Cook felt training for committee members all year round would increase exposure; Errol Kerr will introduce adverts online and on Union TV screens; Sophie McDermott wants to lower the number of members required to be verified by the union. All candidates agreed the room booking system needs to be simplified.

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