Hello everyone, we are here live blogging the Southampton Test Candidates debate at the Union. Your correspondents tonight are Kieran Hyland, Alice Hearing, Zach Sharif, Ivan Morris-Poxton and myself.
It’s a hot day, so very large jug of water on the table for the candidates – can’t say Debating Society don’t look after their guests!
Our speakers tonight are Alan Whitehead (Soton Test Labour Candidate), Paul Holmes (Soton Test Conservative Candidate), Thomas Gravatt (Soton Test Liberal Democrat Candidate), and Keith Morrell (Soton Test Independent Candidate). The debate will be chaired Hadeeka Taj and Matthew Armstrong.
The debate is starting sotondebate
Opening with a statement on the tragic events in Manchester.
Followed by impeccable minute’s silence…
Andrew Pope’s (Independent Candidate) statement read out that he won’t be attending the event due to security concerns
The first issue, on the topic of education, revolves around the future of grammar schools
Prime Minister supporting grammar school development while ‘starving’ state schools of funds (Alan Whitehead, Labour)
Paul Holmes (Conservative) claims proposed Government school funding plans would bring in £1.6 million more investment for Southampton’s schools, while commenting on grammar school that he believes he wants ‘choice and diversity in our education system’
Paul Holmes (Conservative) claims proposed Government school funding plans would bring in £1.6 million more investment for Southampton’s schools, while commenting on grammar schools that he believes he wants ‘choice and diversity in our education system’
Keith Morrell (Independent) on Education: Calls for “proper” comprehensive school funding. Not in favour of academies.
Thomas Gravatt (Lib Dems) claims it is unneccessary to introduce selective education, instead focusing on increased funding solely towards state school education
Keith Morrell (Independent): Very much supports the investment in graduate education. Calls for abolition of tuition fees. In favour of more investment in ‘all fields’ of education.
Firstly, emphasis on graduate opportunities being proportionate to how skilled a work force the country has. Secondly, Labour are also against zero hour contracts because of the lack of guarantee for skilled labourers. Thirdly, Whitehead is against unpaid internships (Whitehead, Labour).
Holmes (Conservative) on graduate opportunities emphasizes continued investment in the university system and investing locally in the Soton area. Regarding zero hours contracts, claims only one out of thirty-five people work in zero-hours contracts in country
The number one thing to dictate graduate opportunities is the state of the economy, giving students the opportunity to seek work in the city after graduation (Gravatt, Lib Dems)
Questioner challenges Holmes on ‘crackdown on international students’ by government
Holmes (Conservative) says International student numbers are going up and refutes assertion that government is planning a crackdown
Another question directed to Holmes (Conservative), this time about him misleading over school funding, but also challenging Whitehead (Labour) on his support (or not) for Corbyn’s education programme
Whitehead, Labour, answers a question on education, emphasises problem of funding in capital per student. It’s a bad lookout all-round at the moment with the phoney figures. Labour wants a National Education Authority rather than devolved authorities.
Holmes (Conservative) disagrees with gentleman’s question, emphasizing once again £1.6 million more investment in the city based on the new school ‘fair funding’ formula, although Whitehead (Labour) intercedes, accusing Holmes of ‘making stuff up’
Hammer time to calm debaters down sotondebate
Keith Morrell (Independent): We are always told greater investment is coming, yet I am told by headteachers that the education system is in crisis. Trust the reality of the situation on the ground, not figures reeled out by politicians.
Next section, housing – how to reverse trend of many young people not owning their own home
Holmes (Conservative) says key thing to get more people on housing ladder is ‘build more housing’, promising to collaborate with developers in the city to construct more houses locally
Gravatt critiques Holmes’ remarks, instead commenting that houses built need to be affordable, with the construction of new houses not the primary concern
Affordable housing has historically ‘virtually dried up’, housing building at lowest level since 1920s. Support through the planning process. Over 1000 affordable houses built in Soton over last few years. Whitehead would like to see the importance of quality and energy efficient brought forward.
Keith Morrell (Independent) on Housing: “Build more homes”. Tory government has completely failed, as have Labour local authorities. Local authorities and government have a role together to play. Housing waiting list issues were addressed by a 3 year wait if you didn’t live in Southampton – that is not how to approach this issue, building more affordable houses is.
Holmes (Conservative) responds to criticism of Conservative housing policy by asserting that since Labour authority took over in Soton only 87 homes have been built thanks to their efforts
Alan argues Labour have facilitated not built those homes
Question for Holmes – ‘Do you not agree that the housing market is a complete shambles?’
Holmes (Conservative): ‘We have put forward solutions’ and the government has a ‘strong record on housing’, but says he wants to see further construction and further investment in the rental sector. He rejects Labour idea of ‘rent caps’ as damaging to the economy
The housing market is a very complex issue. Help to buy has not helped to support people purchasing a house. Renting has worryingly little regulation, and this needs to change for HMOs (Whitehead, Labour)
Holmes (C.) rejects further housing regulation, while defending Help to Buy scheme as enabling more people to own their own homes
The third question topic is on the environment, and revolves around which is more important; industry or the environment?
Holmes (C.) – Gov. should encourage manufacturing industries and the docks to take action to reduce emissions, rejecting premise of question, that it’s an ‘and/or’ issue. He believes that the health of the manufacturing sector can ‘work in harmony’ with more environmentally-friendly business measures
Health of manufacturing ‘centrally aligned’ with the environment. Labour’s industrial strategy wants renewable and low carbon sources to provide 60% of energy by 2030. (Whitehead, Labour)
Keith Morrell (Independent) on the environment: Pollution is caused by vehicles, industry causes problems however this is marginal compared to vehicle usage. We should get more cars off the road – by having a Municipal Bus Service.
Opinion – Morrell’s proposal would get rid of unilink bus service!
Gravatt sees the best way to counter industry is promoting sustainable manufacturing methods, and encourage renewable energy, particularly expanding renewable energy sector for cars
Opened to the floor again and question about how to encourage ordinary people in Soton to switch to green energy solutions
Gravatt sees the best way to counter industry is promoting sustainable manufacturing methods, and encourage renewable energy, particularly the expanding renewable energy sector for cars
Holmes (C.) cites policy of energy price cap before questioner challenges him for not answering the question, prompting him to instead emphasize educating people about green energy measures they can take
Present Government successful for ‘screwing up the future for renewable energy in this country’. They have removed incentives for solar panels, offshore wind, heat pumps in properties. Screw up of move towards energy efficiency in homes. We need to turn these policies around to bring personal efforts to use renewable energy sources.
Keith Morrell on the Environment: The answer is not to push responsibility onto the individual householder. Since privatisation, the industry is a mess – now completely driven by profit. Unless the state takes back responsibility we will have an energy crisis. The state should take back control.
Holmes (C.) on eliminating the deficit – ‘we’ve come a long way’ and ‘have a strong track record of delivery of reducing the deficit’. Says gov. deficit has reduced from c.9% of GDP to 3.5% since Conservatives came into office
UK since 2010 has borrowed more money than all the Labour Government’s in history combined. Funding for expenditure must have sources from other current expenditure through taxation. Approach to deficit is through borrowing to produce investment opportunities.
Holmes (C.) responds to Whitehead’s (L.) attack on previous Conservative record on reducing the deficit by accusing Labour govs. of having mantra of ‘borrow, borrow, and borrow’
Gravatt again agrees with Whitehead, and sees investment as the way to successfully eliminate the national deficit. However, it is a long term solution.
Keith Morrell on the deficit: The financial crisis caused this, and now Tory austerity means that this is worsened. The answer was investment, stimulate growth and gradually get rid of the defecit. Austerity was a mistake which the Tories are still perpetuating. Labour policies aren’t enough either – but they’re going in the right direction.
Holmes (C.) answering first question on how to increase productivity says ‘no government has got it right in increasing productivity, including my own’. Says there is need to tackle issue
Low skilled economy is damaging productivity. Investment in the economy will up-skill it and provide a different level of approach through an industrial strategy (Alan Whitehead, Lab)
‘Investment’ seems to rather be the buzzword of the debate
Keith Morrell: Investment needed in machinery, techniques and people to improve productivity. Private enterprise has failed. A national plan to finance institutions – carrying out investment in infrastructure and people. That is the only way to improve productivity.
Gravatt declares the necessity of a higher living wage, claiming the Conservatives policy has left many employees stuck for the duration of their working life
The function of corporation tax and whether companies invest or not is not a straight forward equation. Present corporation tax historically at a low, under Thatcher it was much higher but did not have an effect on investment. Restoring it is not as much an issue, the question is about funding. (Whitehead)
Q. on Artificial Intelligence reducing number of jobs for people
Holmes (C.) disagrees with questioner suggesting unfairness of bailing out large businesses and banks like RBS compared to small businesses, stressing how the Conservatives always reduce taxes on businesses
Bailout of banks, question of regulating against failures of loans etc. Proper regulation of those arrangements. Does not think it should be built on the ‘sand of a casino economy’ (Whitehead)
Gravatt, meanwhile, argues against bailing out the banks. If banks can’t look after themselves, are they worth saving?
Keith Morrell calls for public ownership of all the banks – not doing so was a big mistake.
Onto Brexit – hooray! And individual Qs for individual candidates
Paul asks whether ‘Hard Brexit’ will hurt Soton to Holmes (C.). He responds, rejecting the term ‘Hard Brexit’ – ‘I refuse to recognise it’ – and asserts Brexit as an opportunity to build stronger relationships with rest of the world
Matthew (co-chair of debate) challenges Holmes (C.) on ‘tens of thousands’ migration pledge now we are leaving the EU. Holmes argues that it is ‘quite right that we want a fair and strong immigration system’, whilst also telling us that when he met Theresa May recently he stressed his support for granting protection to EU citizens currently living in the UK
Whitehead (L.) brings biggest cheer of the debate, asserting Theresa May to have only visited four houses on her trip to Soton, meeting with Holmes recently feeltheburn
Holmes (C.) – ‘There is only one person on the stage who can deliver a strong Brexit and that’s me’
Beginning to doubt my eyes and ears. White Paper sets up Brexit negotiations to have no deal on trade and follow WTC rules. No deal is a very hard Brexit future. (Whitehead)
Holmes (C.) burns Whitehead (L.) for his previous resignation from the shadow cabinet in dissent against Corbyn. Things are heating up…
Holmes (C.) comments of the referendum as ‘the largest democratic exercise in our history’ and that we need to get on with Brexit, in response to Gravatt’s (LD) defence of his party’s second referendum based on the Brexit deal pledge
Article 50 is irreversible, we are on our way out of the EU. Extremely unlikely that EU countries will accept a U.K. return to the EU. We must, however, avoid being isolationist as a nation (Whitehead, Labour)
Keith Morrell: I’m not an independent by choice, I am a socialist ex-Labour Party member. It changed after it scrapped clause 4 of its constitution. The Labour Party instantly expelled me after I put myself outside their new ideology. My position as an independent is trustworthy – I was elected by a landslide in the Council. I have a mandate that is more powerful, I was elected because I was a good councillor, not because of some party level. If I was an MP for Southampton Test, I would not direct my focus towards Westminster, I will direct my focus to Southampton.
Does Alan support Labour’s policy against free movement?
I voted against Article 50 at that particular time. This was because of a high court action that forced Parliament to make a 150 word bill. My party tried to put basic safeguards into that bill. How we can secure specific rights and factors by linking everything together. We have already given away this. I support my party’s through this. (Whitehead, Labour)
I hope they vote for me again because I have been a good MP, ensuring the letting and renting charter, and I will try to make sure what we have got in our manifesto is put into practice (Whitehead, Lab)
Final question of the night to Alex Hovden, the Student Union President – Considering all the u-turns the government has performed, e.g. National Insurance increase, free luch for school children, how can we trust May’s government to have a strong and stable hand in Brexit negotiations?
Holmes (C.) accuses Labour and the Lib Dems of ‘tricks’ to thwart Brexit, while takes an interesting take on May’s calling of a snap election, calling it a show of her strength and stamina to lead the country. He also for the first time utters the immortal slogan ‘strong and stable’
Final closing Q. – Why should students vote for you?
Alan Whitehead emphasises that Jeremy Corbyn has a mandate from a leadership election and backs the manifesto Labour produced.
The final question, orientated on why students should vote for you. Gravatt focuses on Brexit, suggesting a vote for the liberal democrats is a vote to retain the European identity and freedom of movement
Holmes says he’s wants to be ‘Southampton’s voice in Westminster’ and is keen to improve the local area, before stating his independent nature if elected, being prepared to defy the Tory whip. Finally, he asserts that he believes his party has the best plan for the country
Alan says students should vote for him because I am behind abolishing tuition fees, restoring maintenance grants and maximise their life chances after University. I have been a voice in Westminster and Southampton for students in this city. I want to improve accommodation in Southampton and nationally. I have consistently tried to make sure the student lot in Southampton is better than it has been (Alan Whitehead, Labour)
With Morrell’s closing statement complete, this concludes tonight’s debate from a heated Cube.
Keith Morrell: Vote for me as a citizen, not as a student. I was elected as the first independent councillor in Southampton. I would apply that same fighting spirit and do the very best for everyone.