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The Lancaster Debating Union has organised a series of External Debates, inviting notable speakers, ranging from lecturers and teachers to politicians, activists and columnists from the respected field of the motion, to debate on contentious, controversial issues related to politics, history and current affairs.
On Thursday, week one, the first External Debate in this academic year, on the motion “This House Regrets the Legacy of Margaret Thatcher”, was launched. A second debate – entitled “This House Believes That The Coalition Government Has Done More Harm Than Good To Education” – followed on Thursday, week 3.
Guest speakers at these events have ranged from peers to lecturers, with the latter of the two debates featuring opinions from Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Eric Ollerenshaw, as well as representatives from the National Union of Teachers; the Campaign for State Education pressure group; and the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.
Dr. Mark Garnett, Senior Lecturer of British Politics at Lancaster University, who debated as one of the Proposition side speakers in the Union’s first debate, expressed that he was “strongly in favour” of these kinds of public debate in the university. “Some people seem to think that [Lancaster is] located on the road to nowhere… the more invitations to outside speakers the better” Dr. Garnett told SCAN.
In response to why he joined the External Debate in the first place, Dr. Garnett replied, “I was asked to participate by the Debating Union’s President [and] ‘The Legacy of Margaret Thatcher’, broadly speaking, has been the central topic of my research. So in any case the invitation would have been hard to resist.”
Luke Parchment, President of the Debating Union, discussed the reason for hosting public debates, “It was time for the Debating Union to try and emulate societies in other universities by becoming the centre of political discussion at Lancaster and we think the public debates help to achieve that.” When asked about his thoughts on the overall success of the first External Debate, he expressed that “with almost 200 people attending, our speakers having a good time and most people intending to come to the next one”, he rated it as “very successful”.
The Debating Union will continue to host External Debates in the coming two months, from October to December, with pronounced speakers discussing topics related to politics and religion. The third External Debate will be on 7th November on the motion: “This House Condemns The Use Of Drones By The USA ,” with outstanding speakers ranging from veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan marine to a lecturer of Global Politics and an alumnus working for Stop the War Coalition. There will also be Internal Debates held in the upcoming two months, where competitive debaters of the university will debate on hot topics.