Royal Holloway Question Time was held in the Windsor Auditorium on the 6th October.
Organised by the Labour and Cooperative Society, the panel consisted of Richard Angell as Director of Progress, Tom Brake standing for the Liberal Democrats MP, the SU President Natasha Barrett, Claire McCarthy for General Secretary of the Cooperative Party and Michel Howe as the Conservative Society President.
As the first Question Time event held so far, it was considered a great success held by all. Topics and questions raised by the audience included whether politics is getting to aggressive as a response to the murder of Jo Cox and other recent attacks on MPs. The board blamed these mainly on the apparent rise of hate crime stemming form the EU Referendum and also on the opinion that the rise of social media creates a platform in where harmful and offensive opinions can be shared whereas they usually wouldn’t be said in face to face scenarios. Clair McCarthy stated that the popularity of entering a career in politics has decreased amongst young people for the concern of their health and safety. Richard Angell also said that it shows how we should be proud of the remaining MPs who continue to work under the same threat. Natasha Barrett commented how social media has shown threats not only to MP’s lives, but also their families and children. She also commented, when asked if this is the same within the university, on how she was happy to announce that this is far from the case for student elections as any viciousness demonstrated in student campaigns are stemmed from passion, rather than hate.
Other arguments mentioned in the evening was if politics has entered a ‘Post-Factual Era’ where parties arguments are lead by emotion rather than fact, and what kind of balance between the two should be given in political debate. Richard Angell pointed out how this could be relevant to Brexit, considering how a third of the Leave Voters believe that we have already left the EU and can apparently already see the benefits of this. He said how this proves that the leave campaign was easily based on emotion.
Tuition fees were also touched upon where a question was raised about the viability of the £9,000 fee. Barrett announced that tuition fees are predicted to rise to £12,000 by 2026, and expressed her planned action to campaign against this. Women’s place in politics was also mentioned, and the issue of how few women currently sit in the House of Commons was raised. All party representatives pressed their intentions of changing this with their Woman Shortlists.
The last few topics of debate leaped from the questioning the future shape of the government, to how the parties intend to help increase the quality of education. An audience member raised an opinion that it was teachers that need to be the focus of improving schools, rather than introducing more grammar schools into the country. It was a shared opinion that teachers need an increase in pay to match their overwhelming workload, and to also encourage not only new young people to become teachers, but to have people in teaching to remain in their careers and maintain the inspiration of wanting to influence new generations, rather than getting overwhelmed by changes in exam boards and circulars. Many personal experiences were shared over this subject.
Overall, the panel were very impressed (and a little overwhelmed possibly) by the depth and diversity of the questions put forward and expressed their enjoyment after the event. Jack Beard, a member of the audience, said he thoroughly enjoyed Question time, would certainly attend another event and felt that he learnt a lot from it. The event was recorded and broadcasted live on both Rhubarb TV and Insanity Radio, and the charity mentioned at the end of the evening was the ‘Local Woman Refugee Sanctuary’ in which donations were collected, with £80 raised. The organisers hope to have more similar events in the future, encouraged by the great success and support shown at this Question Time and welcome any comments and/or suggestions for the next event.