The Glasgow University Union (GUU) has continued its tradition of debating by hosting two political debates.
The first, the annual John Smith Memorial Debate, saw high-profile politicians debate the motion “This house believes that Labour is still best for Britain,” the second a debate on the Alternative Vote (AV) referendum, which is due to take place on May 5.
The University’s Rector, the Rt. Hon. Charles Kennedy MP, chaired the John Smith debate, and stressed his impartial and independent role at the beginning of the proceedings.
Proposing the motion were the Labour politicians Ann McKechin, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland and MP for the Glasgow North constituency; the Rt. Hon. Tom Clarke, who is a former Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland and MP for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill; and Johann Lamont, Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party and MSP for Glasgow Pollok. Ann McKechin MP defended Labour’s commitment to the working people of Britain, while Tom Clarke MP highlighted some of Labour’s achievements while in power.
Speaking to the Glasgow University Guardian, Johann Lamont MSP summarised the main argument of the proposition: “We have big issues facing families, and my contention still remains that the Labour Party are more likely to protect and defend them.”
Representatives from the other three major parties opposed the motion: Gerald Malone, former Conservative Minister of State in the Department of Health; Liberal Democrat MSP Robert Brown, Shadow Spokesperson for Justice and representative of the Glasgow region; and Angela Constance, Minister for Skills and Lifelong Learning in the current SNP government.
Charles Kennedy concluded the debate by praising both the good-natured atmosphere and the clashing ideas brought to the fore. Following this, a vote led him to declare the result a scoring draw.
Proposing the AV system were Sophie Bridger, head of the Glasgow University Liberal Democrats and Katy Gordon, top of the list candidate for the Liberal Democrats for Glasgow North.
Opposing the AV system was Ruth Davidson, who stood as the Conservative party candidate in the 2009 Glasgow North East by-election, and Ross McFarlane, President of the Glasgow University Conservative Association.
Speaking after the debate, Katy Gordon emphasised the benefits of AV and encouraged people to use their vote.
She said: “It’s really important that everyone goes out and votes and votes for this.
“I think will be fairer vote and it will make sure that everyone’s vote counts it will stop the scandal of MPs having safe seats, seats for life, and it will also make MPs work harder, as they will not just have to get the core vote but they will also have to go out to work to get other people to support them as well. So with the fairer vote we have an opportunity, the people have an opportunity to have a say change politics forever.”
Gerald Malone, speaking to the Guardian after the John Smith Memorial debate, stressed the importance of debating at the University of Glasgow and highlighted its rich history:
He said “There’s a litany of people who have cut their teeth in the debating chamber in Glasgow University”, mentioning Charles Kennedy, Menzies Campbell and Donald Dewar amongst others.