Politics Society host Student Question Time

Steven Ross reports on the Politics Society's Student Question Time, attended by Labour, Greens, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats

Steven Ross
17th November 2017
Image: Newcastle University Politics Society

On the 7th of November Newcastle University’s Politics Society hosted Student Question Time. The event took place on Tuesday evening in the Herschel building between 6:30 and 8pm.

Representatives from each political party society met to discuss important issues raised by students about life at the university and the world at large.

Speaking to the representatives before the event began, they expressed their views on what they hoped to gain from the debate and why it would be an important experience.

The Labour president said that he was “looking forward to engaging with students in a relaxed environment”. Andrew Stark (Greens) expressed the importance of hearing the ideas of other parties and creating a dialogue, concurred by Jason Carr (Conservatives) who was excited to “further the political debate”.

Friction began over questions about welfare cuts and whether the Queen should be defunded by government

Alex Hunt (Liberal Democrats) was hoping to understand with which issues students were most concerned.

Moderator, Adam Warner kicked off the evening with a question on how to bring the youth into politics. All representatives were in agreement that a focus on social media rather than more traditional channels was important.

A question on reform of the House of Lords caught most representatives off-guard, but Carr, who had researched the issue, explained the current reform plan and expressed his support to do something about an “insanely large legislative chamber”. The other representatives agreed that reform was certainly needed.

Next, the representatives were asked if they believed that their leaders were competent. The representatives praised their party leaders.

The Labour candidate suggested that Corbyn’s success on the campaign trail was indicative of his ability, while Hunt was enthusiastic about Cable’s proven experience in politics.

Carr called May a “stabilising” figure, and Stark suggested that other parties adopt a power sharing leadership like his own.

Friction began over questions about welfare cuts and whether the Queen should be defunded by government. Labour, Green and Lib Dem were aligned against the Conservatives on these issues.

The final question: “Should the government close tax loopholes?” was the most damaging

Carr came unstuck when discussing the success of current drug policy, to disapproval from the audience, and assured us the statistics proved it was working, but neglected to quote any.

A question on getting women into politics further divided the all-male panel. Hunt suggested that more needed to be done to ensure women felt welcome in the political environment, but that the situation was improving.

Stark and the Labour candidate supported positive discrimination, clashing with Carr who suggested that it was patronising to women. 

The final question: “should the government close tax loopholes?”, was most damaging for Stark, who, when asked by Carr if he thought a nation should have its sovereign will overruled, said “I don’t know, yes, I guess”.

But Stark also provided the soundbite of the night. When discussing where his party lay on the political spectrum, he said, “It’s not as black and white as left or right”.

Ultimately, this underscored the whole event for the evening, as each representative representing each party’s student group made an important contribution to the debate.

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