In the run up to the election, Fuse FM brought representatives from the four big political societies on campus to debate issues relating to students.
To start, each of the parties were given an opportunity to pitch their manifestos and set out why students should vote for them in particular.
The Tory delegate, Jake Feely, mainly spoke about Brexit and the importance of getting it out of the way to focus on other national issues.
Albie Mayo from the Greens stressed the importance of “urgent radical climate change action”. He also mentioned their stance against austerity, and their demand for a peoples vote on Brexit. “Only the Greens will fight against Brexit and climate chaos.”
Jamie Dwan was representing Young LibDems. Interestingly he is also standing in this election for the LibDems in Staybridge and Hyde. If elected, Dwan would be one of the youngest MPs in the country. He set out the strong anti-brexit position of the LibDems which he argues was in the best interests of students. He made it clear that he thought neither the Tories or Labour fit to run the country, calling them “stale”.
Aaron Watling from Young Labour spoke a lot about the incompetence of the Tories, naming austerity as a defining feature in the lives of young people. He stated that Labour were the only party who could “reverse” the damage done by the Tory and LibDem government.
One topic that was highly contested was the UCU strikes. Opinions varied amongst the parties, with Jake Feely expressing he would prefer it to be more difficult for workers to be able to strike. Aaron Watling from Labour was, predictably, far more supportive of the strikes, with Mayo and Dwan expressing sympathy for the UCU members.
Brexit was inevitably a large part of the discussion. Josh questioned Feely on the Tory position on Brexit. “All the other parties offer a choice or a way out of Brexit, whereas the Conservative stance is firmly leave. Students overwhelmingly want to stay in the EU, so why should they vote Tory?”.
Feely responded: “Well, it depends if you’re a democrat or not. The majority of people voted to leave in 2016. As I’m aware, of 18-25 year olds, only 20-something per cent of people turned out. If students felt so passionately about this issue maybe they should have turned out and voted.”
This response was met with the three other delegates shaking their heads. Albie from the Greens immediately pointed out that many of the young people who feel so strongly about Brexit did not have the right to vote in the referendum.
The tension surrounding Brexit is strongly felt by all parties, and the effect it will have on students was a highly contested issue during the debate.
At the end of the debate, Sandiford mentioned a perceived hostility towards student conservatives. A question was put to each of the non-Tory representatives – could you live with a Tory? And in turn, the opposite question was posed to Feely – could he live with a staunch Labour supporter?
The debate was broadcast on Fuse News on Friday 6th of December, and is still available to listen to.