Today saw a brilliantly produced pre-elections debate between the parties vying for your vote. A packed audience watched as Lee Walker, President of the Debating Society, kept things in order as the parties looked to gain student support. Each of the parties running in Southampton had one candidate representing them each as the competing politicians battled against each other and student questions, in an attempt to capture the student vote.
Here’s a breakdown of the debate, and the views of those involved; small chunks and quotes have been chosen to summarise the bulk of opinion on each issue.
RED- LABOUR BLUE- CONSERVATIVE ORANGE- LIBERAL DEMOCRATS GREEN- GREEN PARTY PURPLE- UKIP PINK- TRADE UNION AND SOCIALIST COALITION
ALAN WHITEHEAD: I want to ensure Southampton comes out of this recession in good shape, with emphasis on housing, education and jobs. As part of a low carbon, lower emissions environment which in turn relates to jobs and industry. I also want to make sure that student fees remain capped following the review.
JEREMY MOULTON: It’s time there was a change in politics and government, in my constituency it’s now a straight head to head between us and labour, so vote carefully. I place emphasis on jobs for Southampton.
SANDRA GIDLEY: The University is an asset to Southampton and it’s time the residents realised this. My main priorities lay in education and health. The Liberal Democrats plan to scrap tuition fees, reform bursaries and with out plans for the new tax system everyone will be £700 better off.
JOHN SPOTTISWOODE: Studying Environmental Science at the Open University following my original degree my eyes were opened. I once worked for Labour but soon realised it was not the party of justice i thought. We need to concentrate on our waste of resources, pollution of the planet and also fairness.
PEARLINE HINGSTON: First of all today we would not be here today because it’s St. George’s day, and UKIP would make that a public holiday. I moved to the UK, from Jamaica aged 11, and was recruited to work at Southampton University in 2001 and worked here till 2007.
TIM CUTTER: The main three parties are all very similar, but the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, stand for a truly different alternative. They all want more cuts, we will defend cuts and clear up this mess. We campaign all year round, and don’t just come out at elections.
IN RESPONSE TO OPEN ADDRESSES:
AW: It’s hard to respond when no one really said anything. What I can say is that the choices are clear, we need to clearly establish what our priorities are and are not.
JM: I agree it’s as much about policy and honesty as anything else. We all know politics needs a good clean up, we can see that following last nights debate by the three main party leaders.
SG: I have an issue with that Tim said about what we do and do not do. I have been out and about campaigning all year round but unfortunately the University does not let us knock on student housing, which is something I would like to address, there needs to be closer links between us all.
TC: All this talk of a fairer society is simply politicians trying to cover up planned cuts. It’s clear that the only reason that everyone is talking about a fairer society is because the politicians were caught out, this would never have happened before the expense scandal.
JS: I have been campaigning against the fluoridation of our water and factory closures, I also think fairness following this situation is extremely important issue.
PH: I don’t think this is a two horse race as some people have said today, I really advise people to look at our manifesto and make a considered decision.
STUDENT QUESTION: SHOULD STUDENT TUITION FEES REMAIN THE SAME?
AW: I had a strong hand in making the review which saw the inclusion of upfront grants for the less well off, and the idea of no upfront payment. I’m keen to ensure there is equal access to Higher Education for all, and no variable fees which would lead to an elitist system. I want to make sure there is a capped limit to tuition fees.
JM: I find it curious how Alan said he wouldn’t vote for top up fees but then actually did. The review has unfortunately been kicked into the long grass until after the election, as you all know the average debt is far to high and is something I want to address.
SG: This is where the Liberal Democrats really do differ from the other main parties, because we plan to completely scrap tuition fees. It’s a six year plan which ends with there abolition, we have been accused of not being able to add up on this but it seems to me that it is George Osbourne, who can’t add up, probably because he received a Tory education.
TC: We would also plan to scrap them, why should we have to pay for our education, our politicians certainly didn’t. They will say there is no money there, but we believe it is there, the top 100 people in the country earn £250m a year, lets use some of that money for education and the less well off.
JS: We should abolish tuition fees, everyone knows the debt is too big. It’s a bad system and should be abolished.
PH: We want to re-introduce student grants and abolish tuition fees. I have worked in higher education and I know many people even know can’t afford to fund it.
LEE WALKER ASKS PARTIES PLANNING TO SCRAP TUITION, HOW THEY WILL FUND THE CHANGE.
SG: You can find a detailed analysis of our financial plans in the back of our manifesto. Vince Cable has showed we can and need to during this recession.
JS: The statistics are also in the back of our manifesto, but we have £44 billion to invest in a range of things and education is a major priority for us.
TC: As I have said there is plenty of money we can take from the rich. We have to think about or priorities and make a choice, just look at Trident. If we are not careful we will put those suitable people off University with the prospects of large debts.
PH: For a start, we did you know we are paying £45m to the European Union everyday. That’s a small start.
AW: The true figures show if we abolish them it would cost £3 billion a year. That’s money that would need replacing if you want to continue the plans for higher education. We have seen that the planned conservative cuts don’t work, it’s a con just look at the unfortunate students in Australia it was tested on.
JM: Talking of cuts, that’s rich just look at your labour partner across the other side of the water, if i’m correct he cut £1 billion pounds form education.
STUDENT QUESTION: I AM WORRIED ABOUT THE SECURITY OF MY HOUSE OVER THE SUMMER, WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
JM: I’m aware of this problem, concerning safety as a whole, recently I have helped through the introduction of more CCTV in archways, doubled lighting in notorious area’s, helped with security on Lover’s Walk and increased warden appearances by The Hobbit. As a broader issue, we need to make sure concerning crime that punishment fits the crime.
SG: We need to increase the correspondence between landlords and the University, to make sure your houses are more secure. I don’t like no-go area’s but there has been hate crime against some Chinese students and we should make them aware of the situation in certain areas and increase the late night transport for students.
AW: Statistics show crime has fallen recently and that Southampton is relatively safe these days. We are now developing neighborhood policing arrangements, which ensure that PCO’s are nearer to the problems when they do occur. We are also concentrating on safety around campus and to ensure that security of student housing is more secure.
JS: I have recently spoke to the vice president of Solent about the issue, more than half of the crime in the UK is drug related and our position is that it is right to legalise drugs, prohibition does not work. An article in September’s New Scientist, showed that logically legalising drugs and stop gangs getting control of the industry is the best way forward.
PH: When I was here I helped introduce safety talks and personally think a safety induction is essential.
TC: Your homes should be safe. Both your University and landlords have a duty of care, if you are burgled the landlords should compensate you for the repairs and loss. We believe crime is essentially related to poverty. If the conservatives are talking about fitting a crime to the punishment we should start with the expenses scandal .
STUDENT QUESTION: ASKING ABOUT THE HISTORY OF CONSERVATIVE OPPOSITION TO GAY RIGHTS, BUT CHANGED TO ADRESS GAY RIGHTS IN GENERAL BY LEE WALKER.
JM: The conservatives support gay rights, gay marriage and the age of consent. (Also denied a conservative history opposing gay rights and gay equality)
AW: We support all measures we have put in as a Labour party, and are very proud of them. The age of consent of gay and lesbian couples, and issues of discrimination were all addressed and went through under the Labour Party. Equality is essential, following the views of Julian Logs and Chris Grayling, I am worried about the underlying trend developing about what is said when not in public by the Conservatives surrounding gay rights.
SG: I don’t know when exactly the conservatives had their moment of enlightenment, but it seems to me a lot of them have not changed. The reason I like the Liberal Democrats is because we stand for equality.
PH: We are pro-equality for everybody, irrelevant of race, gender or sexuality.
GP: What about immigrant rights?
TC: Equal rights for everyone. We should not be judged by our sexuality it should play no part in society.
LABOUR HAS SET A TARGET OF 50% OF ALL STUDENTS GOING TO UNIVERSITY, BUT IS THIS THE RIGHT WAY FORWARD?
AW: We need a higher educated country, it is the right way to go. Importantly, we want to make sure this percentage allows for equal access to all students and ensure there is no variable fees.
SG: I should start by recognising Alan’s commitment to it, he’s been very effective on your behalf. On this fifty percent target, do we need it? We need to look at other skills as well in vocational areas, one’s which can effect our economy. We also need to find ways to help employers differentiate between people with the same grades in the same degrees.
TC: I don’t agree with the target. We need to look at those people who can’t get jobs if they don’t go to University. The training schemes which have been spoke about these people are they going to be a new form of low income slave work, we want to reduce the working week to 35 hours.
JS: What if there are no jobs? People are struggling to get decent jobs already. We need to ensure education works in a positive with our economy.
PH: Fifty is ambitious, I was a supported for it, but now realise the practical impossibilities and see the need for vocational opportunities. We need to ensure people are best prepared in what happens next.
JM: Vocational skills are important, but we need growth, the worst thing we could do know is tax businesses. It will effect those people most likely to employ you at a later date in a negative way.
EFFICIENCY SAVINGS ARE NOTORIOUSLY UNRELIABLE, HOW DO YOU PLAN TO DEAL WITH THIS?
JM: Efficiency savings are no fantasy, we need to save as much money as anyone else. I work in the area of finance and know there are always to save money. Devolve issues from bureaucrats and administration and there is so much money to save. It’s money which can be spent on front line services.
AW: How reliable are these projections? You can’t guarantee them, we need real idea’s not imaginary sums. I can’t quite square these efficiency savings, they simply give the top people more money. The money from the National Insurance rise, will go to education and health.
SG: After the first leaders debate I was concerned, all Cameron said was cut waste, save money, nothing else. Make these changed and the work loads of front line staff will increase. We need to ask the people in the services, at the grass roots level what needs improving. Scrap trident, tax bank profits, it’s real ideas to save money not any airy fairy ideas.
JG: We need much more fundamental change, these idea’s are much like moving deck chairs on the Titanic. The rich should pay fair taxes, bankers should not be rewarded, and for example in health we can remove bureaucrat, there are three areas there lets cut out the middle man.
TC: It’s not just about tinkering, efficiency saving gets on my nerves. Saving is where you put money away for a later date, this is simply cuts. Tax the richest people fairly.