Story by Luanna Muniz, Asher Gibson, Shuprima Guha, Nikita Dayiha
On Thursday, November 28, a debate was held at King’s Strand campus with representatives of the KCL Labour Society (Rosie McCann), the KCL Liberal Democrats (Atyab Rashid) and the KCL Conservative Association (Sebastian Wright). Here are a few takeaways from the evening.
Three very different views on Brexit
Brexit, unsurprisingly, was a topic of great discussion at the debate.
McCann, for Labour, stressed the importance of taking the issue back to the people, stating that “In an age of political division, we just want to encourage people to speak”.
On the matter of a second referendum, the Conservative representative asserted that “it’s being a sore loser”. What matters to him is getting Brexit done, and the idea that Corbyn would be able to get a better deal done in less time than Johnson is “nonsense”.
The Liberal Democrat representative made sure to point out that their party is the most internationalist one. Their goal is to remain in the EU however have taken a step back from their previous line of revoking article 50 without a second referendum. Rashid remained firm in his belief that “referendums are not an effective way of doing parliament”.
Rashid also expressed worry over the Conservative’s promises to bring the UK togehter, saying that “you have a party that kicked out 22 of its own MPs and you’re telling me that you’ll unify this country?”
Incompatibilities on the subject of the economy
When asked about their plans for the economy, all stated that their parties want to raise public spending. The disagreements come when determining how much should and could be spent.
The discussion revolved around a clear ideological opposition on the functioning of the economy. Wright, for the Conservatives, emphasised that we should “get out the way and let business do its thing”. That led to a discussion regarding the free market and inequality, that ended with Labour’s comment “Well the free market doesn’t work, clearly”.
The Liberal Democrat simply declared that “the only credible fiscal plan on this table is the Libdem plan”, and offered to prove it, stating “I have the graphs”.
Trust issues surrounding the two main party leaders
A recurring theme throughout the debate was whether or not the two main party leaders could be trusted. The main point of contention was whether we should focus on the many questionable (or outrageous) things they have said in the past, or disregard them in favour of their actions.
The Conservative representative admitted that Johnson “does not have a good track record of saying politically correct things”, but that people shouldn’t focus on that as it doesn’t translate into his policies and that “his bark is bigger than his bite”.
On Jeremy Corbyn, the Liberal Democrat representative stated that he “fails to meet the guidelines that they set for themselves” in terms of antisemitism. McCann condemned these behaviours and admitted that it is an institutional problem within the party, however, argued that she does not want to abandon the Labour Party but fix it from within.
A debate dominated by the two main parties
The Liberal Democrat representative was the one that spoke less during the evening, something he pointed out himself. “I have been quiet for the last five minutes”, he stated after the heated discussion on institutional racism.
However, he used that as a way of distancing himself from his counterparts, and to try to position himself as the better option. “There are two parties being accused of institutional racism, and there’s one criticising them for it. Who do you want to vote for?”, he said.
This had been raised at the beginning of the debate as being a strategy of the Liberal Democrats. The Conservative representative claimed that all we really knew about the Liberal Democrats was that they will routinely change their personality in order to consistently be seen as the best alternative.
Audience members expressed happiness with the way the debate developed.
“I was very impressed by the civility of all participants given the tense subject matter. Conservatives and Labour both played defence adroitly, but did so at the cost of more powerful advocacy of their own positions. Lib Dems were very good, but never really made their presence felt for longer than a zinger,” one audience member said.
Another audience member expressed that “the dialogues were well distributed among the candidates”
“[The debate] didn’t change my opinions but it gave me more insight into the issues.” Therese, a second-year history student said.