Home Comment In Tweets: Comment at the Teashop Debate

In Tweets: Comment at the Teashop Debate


Back with more from The DebSoc twitterverse, debate correspondent Fiona Potigny reports that, “A fine display of bunting and baked goods greeted the eyes of eager DebSocers as they entered the Moot Room this week, setting a perfectly appropriate backdrop for the motion: ‘This House Believes that the Tea Room is mightier than Tesco’.”

Photo Credit: CeeKay's Pix via Compfight cc
“From those whose hands were not full of cake comes this week’s selection of top tweets.”
Photo Credit: CeeKay’s Pix via Compfight cc

From those whose hands were not full of cake comes this week’s selection of top tweets.

With her tales of bygone summers spent in quaint teashops with quirky little names, Frances Northrop of Transition Town Totnes painted an image of idiosyncratic British beauty. Despite this, a little further probing, and the dream soon unravelled. “Surely they are only appealing because the best have survived?” one audience member asked, who was met with the response: “Well, not all of them are that great.” Ah. Realising that this wasn’t the best possible reply, Northrop swiftly interjected a brief spiel on the “cultural value” of teashops, but wherein this “value” exactly lies simply could not be deciphered. The audience was left to speculate, with Matt Nichols providing this reasoning:

Unfortunately for Northrop, proposition partner East Devon Green Party’s Henry Gent didn’t exactly help her cause. Questioning saw him use far too many similes to do with mammoths – yup, we have no idea either. Contact Exeposé Comment if you can offer any suggestions – and practice what one audience member called “food authoritarianism” by decisively labelling all supermarket food as “bad”. Just a tad at odds with his argument when Teashops sell caffeinated drinks and sugary cakes, then? “I actually prefer savoury food – I’m only eating a cake tonight out of guilt”, he replied, in reference to the cakes being sold for Speakability, DebSoc’s charity of choice. Despite the lack of coherence and general structure to his argument, he did keep two main themes, albeit tenuously linked themes:

  Tax on energy usage, tax on faltering local businesses, corporation tax, air and marine fuel tax: Gent clearly wasn’t happy with the current system. Right or wrong, again, it was still hard to see how any of this possibly demonstrated the Tea Room’s “mightiness”.

We shall forgive this tweeter for forgetting that it was in fact Carrots. After all, he did only mention it 5 or 6 times. Perhaps rather luckily, Daily Mail journalist Rupert Steiner seemed to pass under the radar of the critical #debsoc tweeters. Fair in his judgement, Steiner did not wholly dismiss the emotional bond we Brits share with our beloved cuppa, in fact, he totally supported it. To the detriment of this attachment, however, came his reasoning that the consumer public have already voted with their wallets, with 481 new supermarkets having been installed last year, set against 13 local tea rooms closing down. Unlike tea rooms, supermarkets have evolved with time, he asserted, now providing Amazon hubs, post offices, cafés, and a place to pay utility bills all within one building – how could we argue against this convenience? People these days simply haven’t the time nor the means to peruse the pricey aisles of local shops; transition might have worked for Totnes, but it is a movement that simply cannot be repeated, he claimed, paving the way for his colleague.

…So began Professor John Maloney’s speech, provoking the above reaction in Henry Gent.

Professor Maloney presented a wonderfully articulate argument, which crucially addressed local, global and environmental impact. Attacking local businesses as elitist, he stated that increasing localisation excludes the poor from the markets of the rich, particularly criticising privileged Richmond MP Zac Goldsmith for leading a boycott against Sainsbury’s in 2008. With thousands of local people relying on food banks, he stressed the urgency and necessity of the big brands’ “race to the bottom” in order to help tackle this. In addition, Professor Maloney dwelled upon the negative impact upon countries relying on fair trade contracts for income, backing this with Oxfam’s statistic that if export was increased by 1%, 100million people could have their poverty alleviated. Finally, debunking the myth of intolerable CO2 levels arising from foreign trade, he demonstrated that the added 50kg of CO2 from freezing, processing, packaging and transporting food locally near equals that of fair trade products. For all his eloquence though, his “Clanger of the Year” entry was undoubtedly one of the best moments:


With such high accolade from the DebSoc President, an excellent Clanger entry, and a most excellent contribution to the majority winning side, it is no surprise that Maloney wins the ever prestigious Speaker of the Week award.
Equal commendation must be given to the organisers of the debate this week for providing cakes worthy of Merry Berry’s praise, and raising £63.47 for Speakability, a charity supporting those with Asphasia, a condition causing impaired understanding, reading, writing, and – relevantly for DebSoc – speech.

Fiona Potigny

Did you attend last Friday’s debate? Is this an accurate version of events? Leave a comment below or write to the Comment team at the Exeposé Comment Facebook Group or on Twitter @CommentExepose.

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