Exeter, Devon UK • Jul 12, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Features Labour win at Debating Society’s annual cross-party debate

Labour win at Debating Society’s annual cross-party debate

Jamie Speka, Editor-in-Chief, reports on the extreme political divide within the event that stirred up controversy and finished with a Labour win.
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Debating Society’s annual cross-party debate final results via Isobel Llewellyn Jones

On 13th October, the Debating Society’s Annual Cross-Party Debate finished with an engaged and exclamatory crowd, controversy among the University’s political parties, and a Labour win. The speakers included four men from societies representing political parties and the President of an Exeter libertarian society, the Freedom Society. The format was designed to have an opening speech from all speakers and then consisted of Q&As from the audience, which were divided into three broad areas of policy: the economy, climate, and immigration.

The Labour vote held the majority of 68 before the debate began. This was followed by 64 no preference voters, 27 for Conservatives, 25 for Green Party, 23 for Freedom, and 18 for the Lib Dems. 

Where Unions are concerned within the first topic, EUCA took the normal Conservative party stance of strikes being disruptive. On the contrary, the speaker for Labour was more supportive than the actual Labour Party, by fully endorsing the strikes–which was a shared opinion by the Greens. A constant was Freedom Society drawing every issue to be from immigration.

To open the debate, the Green Party began with their President, Thomas Richardson, speaking. He stated that the main priority should always be climate change. He mentioned that green initiatives are underfunded and coated over with “culture wars” as seen with PM Rishi Sunak’s scrapping of HS2. The Green Party, Richardson made clear, seeks to focus policy-making on the environment, which will make society better for all.

Labour emphasised employment, consumer, and human rights. Sebastian Racisz, the Treasurer of the Labour Society, explained that the Labour Party was “built on the belief that our duty of care is not just for our friends, but for our community.” Supporting the most amount of people should always be the priority, a prospect he believes is not upheld by other parties.

The speaker for the Liberal Democrat Society, Francis Motycak, centred his argument on the Lib Dem party having a “moderate” approach to the economy with pragmatic solutions which are not of the left or the right. They exclaim they are “the only party that’s not deeply authoritarian” highlighting ID cards from Tony Blair or protesting crackdowns from the Conservatives. 

Speaker for Exeter University Conservative Association (EUCA), Jack Barwell, son of Lord Gavin Barwell, focused more on himself rather than the Tory party. He personally described why he aligns with the Tory party: not for his father, but for his grandmother who came from modest beginnings. He explained that because his grandparents worked hard, he is where he is now. “Conservatism,” he declared, “lifts people up.”

Lastly, to the astonishment of the audience, the president of Freedom Society, Andrew Trovalusci, devoted his entire opening speech to immigration. He believes that immigrants lift up crime rates, warp British culture, increase housing scarcity, and are detrimental to the economy. Despite high levels of immigration being a cross-party consensus in Westminister, Trovalusci believes his radical belief of drastically reducing immigration is a “common sense solution”. 

Where Unions are concerned within the first topic, EUCA took the normal Conservative party stance of strikes being disruptive. On the contrary, the speaker for Labour was more supportive than the actual Labour Party, by fully endorsing the strikes–which was a shared opinion by the Greens. A constant was Freedom Society drawing every issue to be from immigration.

In this section, there was a lack of discussion on specific policies and, due to the conservative’s focus on himself rather than his government, there was a lack of scrutiny of the current government’s policies. This is with the exception of the Green Party which was able to highlight some of the criticisms of Sunak’s environmental policy. 

The prevailing controversy came from Motycak for Lib Dems who, despite being known as a party of multiculturalism, interjected by highlighting that the UK “should not import people who believe rape is acceptable”. At the same time, Freedom underlined the alleged high rates of cousin marriages among Pakistani communities as a cause for concern. A comment so controversial that even the Conservative speaker strongly opposed it.

The next section on immigration was notable for a considerable amount of audience heckling from a variety of political persuasions. The questions mostly arose from Trovaluski’s opening speech, particularly the question deemed “the question of the night” by the chair, who was a woman who asked the Freedom speaker how he could justify cutting all current immigration if it would still leave the country diverse in a way that the speaker argued against. She continued by wondering what he would do with the existing immigrants in this country. Trovaluski controversially argued that the problems present by immigrants now would not get any worse with his beliefs in immigration reform. In response to this, the Labour and Green speakers both sought to defend multiculturalism whilst the Conservative speaker focused on illegal immigration being the issue, rather than legal. The prevailing controversy came from Motycak for Lib Dems who, despite being known as a party of multiculturalism, interjected by highlighting that the UK “should not import people who believe rape is acceptable”. At the same time, Freedom underlined the alleged high rates of cousin marriages among Pakistani communities as a cause for concern. A comment so controversial that even the Conservative speaker strongly opposed it.

Another mentionable contention spurred from a EUCA member who stood up to ask whether “immigration is truly a women’s issue”, underlining his sister’s apparent fear (something he later admitted was not in fact a fear his sister had) of walking through ethnic minority communities. The heavy focus on subjects many felt uncomfortable to have debated resulted in this question being shut down, not by the chair, but by the members of the audience. Calls of “the problem are men” and “sit the f*** down” riled tensions in the room. Maisie Hemmings, who was one of the outspoken in the audience for yelling for the EUCA member to have a seat, comments that her motivation for calling for him to sit down was because “I am a woman and those feelings that women apparently have are not at all true. We feel unsafe not because of immigrants, but because of men of any race.” She continues that she “would have loved to see a woman up on that panel that was debating about women’s issues, instead of five men.” She also believes “it’s especially hard to watch all these men from similar backgrounds discussing policy. When you look at members of Freedom Society, they all look exactly the same and are dressed exactly the same.”

As the debate finished, the final votes were counted. Labour won with 89 votes, Freedom with 51, EUCA ended with 46, Green Party at 33, and the Lib Dems followed with 10. 

As the debate finished, the final votes were counted. Labour won with 89 votes, Freedom with 51, EUCA ended with 46, Green Party at 33, and the Lib Dems followed with 10. 

Racisz of Labour was clearly thrilled with the results as he later told Exeposé. He added that certain speeches brought forth in the debate, particularly on immigration, were deeply insulting. The EUCA member’s comment which he believes “was insulting, especially as an immigrant himself.” 

Green Party speaker, Richardson, was “delighted to see the Green Party’s vote increase in the final vote.” He notes that had he “done a better job differentiating the position of Green and Labour more to increase his voter turnout.” He also speaks of his disappointment with Freedom Society, who he says “decided to spew complete nonsense about immigration.”

The Conservative speaker discusses the question from an audience on immigration as a women’s issue to which he states his belief of what real women’s issues are: not enough safety areas in place within areas of high rates of sexual violence and not enough “women’s only spaces made specifically for biological women”. When questioned about the study proving no complaints from women within women’s wards that he referred to, he mentions “they might complain in the future.” He also speaks on the debate setting: “The panel was speaking over the chair, I did that as well and I shouldn’t have done that, but everyone was doing it.” He also mentions “the audience heckled me quite a bit” which made it hard for him to speak. This may be due to the audience’s familiarity with him following his unsuccessful bid for Debating Society president.

Freedom’s Trovaluski explains his reasoning for focusing on immigration throughout the debate. He explains “I actually believe that out of the three topics, immigration is one that is the most pressing.” Students found it notable that the party most known for Freedom is pushing most for government control over immigration reform, yet Trovaluski believes that his views “do not reflect the society.” However, when asked why he seems to hold these values aligned with governmental control more so than other speakers on the panel, he declares: “I think the other speakers are stupid Libtards,” to which the other Freedom Society men around him, exclaimed in agreement.

The Debating Society has since issued a statement on Instagram making clear that all views expressed by speakers at the event are not representative of the views of the Debating Society. Each speaker was chosen by the participating societies.

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