Warwick hosts General Election Debate

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The Warwick University Politics Society presented a general election debate on the evening of Monday 27 April.

Local candidates for Coventry South, the constituency for Warwick campus, were presented with questions from students submitted in advance and during an open question session.

The event, which almost 700 people said they were attending on Facebook, comes ahead of the general election on Thursday 7 May.

The Candidates

The candidates each began with a brief introduction of themselves and their party’s main policies before answering and debating questions on healthcare, immigration, student engagement in politics, and the economy.

They included Greg Judge of the Liberal Democrats, Jim Cunningham of Labour and Lenny Shail, who was standing in for Judy Griffiths of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

Avtar Taggar represented the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Benjamin Gallaher, a student at Warwick, stood for the Green Party, and Gary Ridley represented the Conservatives.


Photo: Coventry Telegraph

On the whole, Judge emphasised his belief that the next government is likely to be a coalition, and that voters should consider what party they would like to work with the main parties.

Among other policies, Taggar noted that UKIP would invest heavily in the NHS, and cut foreign aid spending by 80%.

Shail highlighted that the TUSC are completely opposed to cuts in public spending, while Gallaher said that he wanted to offer voters a party that they genuinely believed in.

Keen to see Britain into a period of economic growth, Ridley stated that the Conservatives had created 2.3 million jobs and warned of scaremongering surrounding cuts.

Cunningham emphasised his knowledge of the workforce, and said that he empathised with students suffering under the current coalition.

The Issues

The discussion surrounding healthcare focused mainly on the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), through which areas of the NHS become privatised. One audience member asked the candidates if they would support Warwick’s on-campus pharmacy.

Regarding immigration, Gallaher called UKIP “neo-racist”, and Cunningham drew attention to UKIP party leader Nigel Farage’s support of Enoch Powell, a Conservative MP who voiced his opposition to immigration in 1968 by delivering his controversial ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, which has been widely perceived as inciting racial hatred.

In response, Taggar said: “no-one mentioned race” and suggested that the current EU immigration laws favor white Europeans over people of other races from the rest of the world.

Both TUSC and the Liberal Democrats advertised their pro-Europe and pro-immigration stance, while the Conservatives noted that while migration enriched the country, it needed to be managed carefully.

To improve student engagement in politics, Labour and the TUSC both said that they would lower the voting age to 16.

The Conservatives said they would promote politics in schools, and the Greens highlighted their anti-tuition fee policy.

UKIP promised to update the voting system and the Liberal Democrats said they would make voting in your first election compulsory, aiming to develop a habitual participation in democracy.

Criticism

However, the candidates received criticism from the audience, with one student noting that young people lack interest in politics because “you [the politicians] are all the same”, drawing attention to the lack of ethnic or gender diversity among the candidates.

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