UoB Debating has moved

16 09 2012

UoB Debating has moved

Though this site will redirect you automagically in time, the society has a new home on the web at www.uobdebating.com.

Our Year So Far

4 05 2012

Left to right: Lauren, Alex, David, Matt, Rosie, Simon, Immy, Amanda, Rory, Tallie, Andrew, Jacob, Julian, Megan, Jamie.

We’re now entering the quiet lull induced by exams, and beginning the run up to EUDC and WUDC. So before it gets manic once more, it seems to be a nice idea to reflect upon the last year or so. Since September, we’ve had a great influx of talented debaters, and since February, we’ve seen some of them elected to the committee. From our seasoned veterans to our newest members, we’ve had a host of achievements brought to the society.

In competitive debating, arguably the most central measure of society’s success is its impact on IVs. The most notable achievement was thanks to our most senior debaters Amanda Moorghen (current president, ex vice-president), and Imogen Parkes (ex workshop convenor for two years), who reached the quarter finals of WUDC (the world championship) in Manilla. As far as I can see (given the sporadic and now archived records), this is the first time in the recorded history of this society. This is one of many great moments over the last year: a full list of achievements is as follows:

Competitive Breaks/wins

Quater-finals of WUDC (Worlds) (Amanda Moorhgen, Imogen Parkes)
Winning the Yorkshire Novice (Andrew Green, Simon Hookins)
Final of Manchester IV (Amanda Moorghen, Imogen Parkes)
Final of NAMDA Novice (Matthew Lloyd, Jacob Bale)
Final of Sheffield (Amanda Moorghen, Jacob Bale)
Final of Warwick IV (Amanda Moorghen, Imogen Parkes)
Final of Yorkshire Novice (Jacob Bale, Rosie Booth)
Semi-finals of Nottingham Trent IV (Imogen Parkes, Composite with Andrew Ford: Warwick)
Semi-finals of Sheffield IV (Matt Szeto, Nataliya Manskova)
Semi-finals of York IV (Amanda Moorghen, James Bowker)
Quarter-finals of SOAS IV (Amanda Moorghen, Imogen Parkes)

Appointments to Adjudicate – chief adjudicator (CA); deputy chief adjudicator (DCA)
Co-CA – Reading IV (Amanda Moorghen, Imogen Parkes)
DCA – Exeter IV (Imogen Parkes)
Co-CA – Cardiff IV (Amanda Moorghen)
Co-CA – Aberystwyth (Amanda Moorghen)
DCA – Lancaster IV (Amanda Moorghen)

Public Debates
Notable Speakers:

  • Rd Hon Andrew Robathan MP and Government minister for the MoD (Con)
  • Heather Wheeler MP (Con)
  • Mark Garnier MP (Con)
  • John Hemming MP (Lib Dem)
  • Jeremy Corbyn MP (Lab)
  • Rt Hon John Spellar MP (Lab)
  • Chris Williamson MP (Lab)
  • Andrew Bridgen MP (Con)

We’ve also had many academics from the university, and many other great speakers. Thanks the amazing work of Lauren Seager (Ex public debates convenor), and the already great work of Tallie Manskova (Current public debates convenor), we have managed to get these speakers, as well as a minimum of 60 people, an average of nearer 90, and a peak of 350+ to these debates.

It should be noted that much of the funding for our members to participate in competitions, and for the expenses of external speakers comes from our sponsors: Allen and Overy – who sponsored our public debates, and Pinsent Masons – who sponsored our 2011 IV.

As self-congratulatory as all of this sounds, it does display one of the most all-round successful years in the records of this society. Given the strength of the freshers this year, the next looks promising.

Public Debate – Are the cuts hurting women more than men? – 15th March, 6:30pm

11 03 2012

Are the cuts hurting women more than men?

Some argue that cuts introduced by the government have a greater impact on women than they do on men, with others arguing that making government cuts to services is the only way to reestablish economic stability that will lead to both men and women being better off.

As such, the motion that will be debated on the 15th of March at 6:30pm is as follows:

“This house believes that government cuts disproportionally affect women.”

Speaking in proposition:

Emma Foster – teaching fellow at the University of Birmingham, researcher of gender studies.

Michele Wright – advisor at Carving Careers, member of the Trades Union Congress

Speaking in opposition:

Heather Wheeler MP – Member of Parliament for South Derbyshire.

Professor Stan Siebert – professor of Labour Economics at the University of Birmingham


A report from the Fawcett Society that alleges that the cuts will cost the women of Bristol twice as that of men, due to changes to the benefits and tax system including cuts to tax credits, benefits to pregnant women, family and care benefits and unemployment benefits. This is argued to widen the existing gap between men and women, affect women’s human rights and set back the movement to gender equality. UNISON, a public service union found that unemployment within women would also grow, due to cuts to the public service jobs. The Trade Union Congress also released an extensive report, warning about these dangers, that could potentially have disastrous impact on the future of women.

On the other hand, the case can be made that the financial crisis calls for action to deal with the deficit. Many private sector jobs are being cut, where, some would argue, men are affected to the same extent. The government stands by restoring the economy by adhering to fiscal austerity and saving. More pressure has been created by the recent development of the financial situation in Europe and the threat to the UK’s AAA credit rating. Some would argue that making government cuts to services and creating more efficient and cost effective use of resources is the only way that both men and women can be better off as the country reestablished economic stability. Furthermore, continuing high government spending could hit women harder in the long term.

All public debates are sponsored by Allen and Overy LLP

National Security Public Debate

2 02 2012

9th February – 18:30 – 20:00 – Arts Main Lecture Theatre

The nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 forever changed the face of war, and the half-century of Cold War which followed was dominated, above all, by the threat of nuclear destruction. Both superpowers raced to produce a greater arsenal than their opponents, leading to the point where they had the ability to destroy the world several times over. Added to the direct destructive power of the weapons was the consensus growing among scientists from 1970s onwards that a major war would plunge the world into a ‘nuclear winter’, destroying life even in places that had escaped attack. This led to the concept of ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’, a stalemate in which both sides knew that the use of their weapons would lead to their own destruction as well as their enemies’.

The global situation has, however, changed substantially since the end of the Cold War. Nuclear Weapons have ceased to dominate world politics; however, the fear of proliferation – the spread of weapons of mass destruction to many more countries – is also on the rise.

In the UK there have been many debates on whether it is still necessary to spend millions of pounds a year on our national security system, Trident. It has been argued that the total abolition of the world’s nuclear arsenals is a realistic goal to aim for; whereas others argue that on a more pragmatic level, while not defending the weapons per se; they remain a necessary evil.

Therefore against this backdrop the Debating Society in conjunction with the University of Birmingham Lib Dems puts forward the motion:
“This House Believes Trident should be renewed”.

Rt Hon Andrew Robathan – Government Minister for Ministry of Defence, Conservative MP for South Leicestershire
Mark Garnier – Conservative MP for Wyre Forest, Treasury Select Committee Member

Kate Hudson – General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
John Hemming – Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley

This is the 9th public debate of the academic year. All public debates are sponsored by Allen and Overy LLP. As always there will be prizes for the best audience speeches.

Climate Change Discourse Debate

31 01 2012
Wednesday the 1st January 6.30 – 8.00 in the Arts Main Lecture Theatre
This Debate is in association with the People & Planet society. In the lead up to Go Green Week (6-10 Feb) http://ow.ly/8BvtT, we ask whether the perception of and narrative surrounding climate change is effective.

The motion: This house believes the current climate change discourse of ‘catastrophic climate change’ is failing to bring about environmental sustainability.

– Polly Higgins (Barrister and author of ‘Eradicating Ecocide’)
– Christopher Harris (Civil Engineering and Climate Change PhD Student)

– Adam Ramsay (Editor of Bright Green Scotland, former President of Edinburgh University Students’ Association)
– Imogen Parkes (Worlds Debating Quarter finalist 2011, Workshops Convener at University of Birmingham Debating Society, English Literature undergraduate)

As always there will be prizes for the best audience speeches! All public debates are sponsored by Allen & Overy LLP.

Public Sector Strikes Public Debate – 20th of Jan, 18:30 – 20:00, Arts Main Lecture Theatre

13 01 2012

On 30th November 2011, tens of thousands of people joined rallies around the UK as a public sector strike over pensions disrupted schools, hospitals and other services. About two-thirds of state schools shut, and thousands of hospital operations were postponed, as unions estimated up to two million people went on strike.

The TUC called it “the biggest strike in a generation”. Many argue the strikes were an important display of disobedience against the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition attack on public sector pensions; and that despite government-led propagandizing to the contrary, the strikes were justified. The Conservatives’ pension reforms will mean public sector workers must work longer, pay more and get less at the end of it – and this, following a two-year pay freeze.

The prime minister on the other hand described it as “a damp squib”. Many argue that media coverage of this was irrelevant, and whether or not this was 1926 all over again is to miss the point. They feel having children miss out on school, patients deprived of routine operations and economic damage to the tune of £500million is a serious matter; and that it’s important to look at the context that these proposals are being made in. They feel that country is in a treacherous economic situation – and that we have to make savings if we are to pull through. Public sector pension costs have sky-rocketed as longevity has increased (today the average 60-year-old is living 10 years longer than in the 1970s).

So in the light of this controversy, the Debating Society puts forward the motion
“This House Believes the public sector strikes on 30th November 2011 were justified.”

Rob Lyons – [deputy editor of Spiked political commentary, Law & Psychology graduate, author of “Panic on a Plate: How Society Developed an Eating Disorder”]
Susan Connolly – [European Debating Semi-finalist 2007, Worlds Debating Judge 2010]

Jordan Anderson – [Masters Student in Intelligence and International Security, World Debating Octo-finalist 2012, European Debating Quarter Finalist 2011, 10th best speaker at European Debating Competition 2011]
James Laurenson – [Masters Graduate in Law, Intern at IDEA]

All public debates are sponsored by Allen & Overy LLP. This is the 7th public debate of the academic year.


Statement from the Debating Society

30 11 2011

Recent speculation on facebook and other forms of social media have led to the necessity of The Debating Society clarifying its position on various events in the last few days. We hope that this statement is able to provide some information that sheds some light on what has happened so far, and specifically explains the position of Debating Society with regard to recent events.


On Thursday 24 November Debating Society held, in conjunction with both the Jewish Society and the Friends of Palestine Society, an Israel/Palestine Question-Time event. A lot of work went into the organisation of this event, and we are particularly proud of the effort gone to by our Public Debates Organiser, Lauren Seager, to work with both societies to produce this debate, which was attended by over 300 people.


There are, however, two incidents with regards to which we feel the need to clarify our position and reasoning. The first of these is the reaction of the Chair to the question “Is Israel an Apartheid State?” being asked, the reaction being “we can’t have that as a question”. Clarification was given during the debate that talking about such issues was clearly not prohibited, but that “the issue was with the emotivity of the language being used” and that “perhaps more accessible language could be used”.


The background to this reaction is that, prior to the event occurring, there were some objections to Ben White selling his book “Israeli Apartheid” after the event. This objection was given on the grounds that the word apartheid in the title of his book and the issue itself was offensive and that as the event was co-hosted by the three socieities, by association this would legitimise the author’s work. The Debating Society was worried, therefore, that use of the word “apartheid” in conjunction with the state of Israel would upset some sections of the audience in a way that other debate surrounding the issue of equality would not.


In retrospect, this ought to have been handled differently. Clarification should have been sought from those holding the objection to the sale of Ben White’s book to ascertain whether the use of the word apartheid was problematic only in the context of the sale of that book, or whether it would be problematic in the debate as a whole. However, we as The Debating Society would like to make it clear that our intentions were only ever to provide a forum for the discussion of this sensitive issue in which everyone felt respected, and we therefore took the objections raised before the event very seriously. It is important also to note that the organisers of this event were more cautious, in this instance, of causing offence than is perhaps the case in other debates we host because the issue is so sensitive and events on the issue have been the focus of previous controversy at this university.


Further, there was some alarm with regards to the EUMC definition of anti-semitism, which a Guild Council motion passed last year as a guiding document when considering cases of anti-semitism. It was a cause of worry that potentially, under the terms within this document, discussion arising from the issue of apartheid could result in anti-semitic statements being said; as a result of which The Debating Society may face problems.


The second issue is one that has been raised on the Better Guild forum. The Debating Society would like to make the following clarifications:


  1. We were aware of the situation that is mentioned by Carmen Castrillon on the Better Guild forum. We would have preferred to take, in the first instance, less public action that, we feel, would have been more likely to lead to a friendly resolution for all. Such action would have included (but not been limited to) asking all the individuals involved for a specific description of the events that occurred subsequent to the Israel/Palestine Question-Time and attempting to resolve matters informally. If such conversations had led to a problem that we felt needed to be addressed more formally, we would have been prepared to do so.
  2. The Debating Society is, at present, not in possession of the full information necessary to act further with regards to the claims made, and would like to speak to individuals involved before committing itself to further action. Steps are being taken to meet with these individuals.
  3. The Debating Society is committed to the protection of all individuals that attend and volunteer at its events. Consequently, if The Debating Society feels that it has sufficient confirmation of inappropriate actions that negatively impact upon such volunteers, it will support those volunteers in any proceedings they wish to take.