General Election Coverage brought to you by LSU Media News
Tuesday 28th April saw Room One filled with students and Loughborough residents alike to witness a Bubble Debate Election Special. Our five candidates were present: Steve Coltman- Liberal Democrats; Nicky Morgan- Conservatives; Matthew O’ Callaghan- Labour; Bill Piper- UKIP and Matt Sisson- Green Party. The evening was hosted by Alexandre Christoyannopoulos from the department of Politics, History and International Relations. Katie Wilson brings you an overview of the evening as well as a personal comment concerning the performance of the candidates on the evening.
The candidates were asked to each give a five minute opening statement, as detailed below:
Steve Coltman- Liberal Democrats
First talked of Government accounts and the deficit followed by concerns about borrowing and bringing the deficit down to avoid the “crippling amount of debt” on our generation. He talked of the “fundamental issues” and what economic success looks like- making comparisons with Germany, saying that our trade deficit is“the worst in the World”. There are “shortages at all sorts of levels” in terms of jobs; he made an emphasis on the unemployment rates in under 24s. Energy security is also an issue that Steve raised.
Steve asked: “Who do you trust to govern this country into such an uncertain future?” The Lib Dems “have seen their way in balancing the books” and he also mentioned apprenticeships. He mentioned that the coalition was successful because the Lib Dems had a say in the Conservative policies, as it was not just a Conservative government.
Nicky Morgan- Conservatives
Made a specific thank you to the uni and union, and congratulate us on our recent awards. Nicky wanted to cover both local and national issues, but emphasised: “Please make your views known”…“We don’t hear from students and younger voters, it is often only the older generation who we hear from”.
As the Loughborough member of parliament she has stood up for the university and the local area. “I’ve been delighted to raise the fact that Loughborough have raised a £1 million RAG total and have enjoyed being part of the mental health days here.”
“Our country could have gone the same way as Greece, but it didn’t.” Nicky also raised the point of having to make difficult decisions on things such as tuition fees in the past.
“The conservative plan is important…Conservatives have set out six clear priorities: paying down debts, full employment, making work pay- lifting income tax threshold, making sure that every child gets the best start in life, security in retirement, making sure that everyone can own a home of their own.”
“I hope I’ll get the opportunity to showcase why I believe that Conservatives have the right plan”
Matthew O’Callaghan- Labour
Matthew made a point about his past experiences, having: “Lived, worked and studied in universities most of my life.”
Made a specific hit on the Lib Dems broken promise of keeping down student fees. “We’re all promising various policies. Who can you trust? You have to look at the record of each individual party.”
“From the Labour Party we have the NHS and many rights that we still have today. We legalised homosexuality and passed things such as the equality act. We’re party is a party who believes in equality and opportunity and if elected we’ll reduce the voting age down to 16.”
“The previous Labour government widened chances for university, we want to keep it accessible and cut tuition fees to £6000.”
Matthew also talked about people owning their own home, cutting stamp duty and Labour’s belief in education.
“We’ll look after your parents in old age- they are everyone’s responsibility”.
“Look at which party is likely to be on your side.”
Bill Piper- UKIP
Bill talked about his past, education and lecturing in universities to start, moving swiftly onto the “recurring problems over past governments- for instance housing problems.” He also talked about “the boom and bust of our economies- recessions are fuelled often by excessive borrowing.”
Bill also made comments about the previous government and the issues in USA followed by a comment on services being: “overstretched and underfunded.”
“We need Governments that can control the economy- it is impossible to plan the future when we are not in control of our own destiny. We try and preserve the Green Belt- UKIP will do this and keep the NHS from privatisation, funding education properly.”
“The people in this country deserve change.”
Matt Sisson- Green Party
“We want a more equal society so that no one has to live in poverty. People ask how we will pay for this-, by cutting white elephants projects like Trident and HS2.”
“Britain is one of the wealthiest countries- yet 6 million children are living in poverty. We’re so unequal that the top 1% own more than half of the wealth.” Matt also talked about the Green party wanting to end austerity followed by increasing the min wage to £10 an hour by 2020.
“We’ll scrap letting agents fees”, he also talked of building thousands more homes by 2020 followed by the Greens playing a big part in helping the UK meet environmental/pollution targets.
Talked of investment in infrastructure for walking and cycling.
“This week, Greens passed 70,000 members.”
“A future Britain can be healthier, more equal and more sustainable and work for the common good of everyone.”
Question: views on careers guidance in schools- what to be done about it?
Matt Sisson: Talks about something that falls outside the traditional area of teaching/the roles of teachers being overloaded and not having the time to deliver the holistic support that they’d like to. “Greens will fund education.”
Steve Coltman: Schools have never had these resources- careers guidance needs to come from the local authority, there are thousands of different jobs that teachers couldn’t cover. We need to get a grip on this.
Bill Piper: Careers advice to date has been rubbish- you need people who understand the individual. We should take some of this stress off the students and the teachers.
Matthew O’Callaghan: Students are making the most important decisions and careers advice should be a professional service and ongoing. When you go to a job centre- all you get is a ticket about what’s available in the area.
Nicky Morgan: Talked about collaboration between the college, local schools and employers. Nicky said that she helped over 900 people through work experience, interview practice etc. Local Authorities are the worst people to give advice- local employers should be giving advice. “I secured £20 million for a national careers Bridge to Work scheme.”
Bill Piper: Talks about the need for parents to be more involved in careers process.
Matthew O’Callaghan: Talked about the need to engage younger people with the world of work so they have some idea about what its about.
Nicky Morgan: “We need a wider range of opportunities: need to make sure that there’s a wide range of choices available. There’s a long way to go to get this right.”
Question on fees and employment
Nicky Morgan: Talked about the idea that they didn’t arrive at the tuition fees lightly. “We wanted to make sure that all people could go to uni, rather than reducing the number of places and keeping fees low. It’s brought £10 million more into the student sector and gives students the chances to expect more. There are grad jobs out there.
Bill Piper: “Tuition fees are done differently in other places.” Talked about the history of fees.
Matthew O’Callaghan: “We’d like to go further than reducing to £6000- but education is never going to be free. There is a “Mickey mouse” economy- too many people have to hold down two or three jobs to get by…we want a major shift in manufacturing capability.”
Matt Sisson: “Greens are the only party to write- off historic loans and scrap tuition fees completely. We have an ambition to increase the lowest wage. I would be terrified of being unemployed now.”
Steve Coltman: “I can’t say that I am happy with the deal that we arrived at and the debts will not benefit the majority. (Considering the jobs market)- “I was speaking to some people in the engineering business and they talked of how difficult it is to find the right people.”
Bill Piper: We will remove fees from the STEM subjects (ie. sciences)
Matthew O’Callaghan: Talks off cutting the fees for all- “the arts are valuable to and contribute a lot- I oppose this discrimination. If we got employers involved with students a lot earlier for experience then when they applied for jobs they’d have the experience.”
Audience question on the government spending on tuition fees;
Matt Sisson: Currently the individual takes this on- but society benefits from further education so government spending will be higher as a result.
Steve Coltman: Talks of fees being split between the student and the government.
Nicky Morgan: “If it’s not the taxpayer that picks it up, it’s the universities, if we cut fees- what goes? This can have a direct effect on the local people in this constituency- especially in terms of employment.”
Matthew O’Callaghan: “We’ve promised to give the universities the difference- Education is an investment and taxes will pay it.”
Audience question- talks of being able to afford student living costs;
Nicky Morgan: “It’s not in our manifesto, but we do want to increase the loans in line with living costs.”
Matthew O’Callaghan: “Talks of scrapping letting fees and freezing rent prices. We want to tackle this effect in all people, not just students- everyone is affected. We want to increase the maintenance loan.”
Bill Piper: “The cost of being a student is high- we would look at reducing tuition fees on STEM subjects. It is a difficult mix between students and locals – we need to look again at housing students.”
Matt Sisson: Talks of increasing the maintenance grant.
Following the break, an overview of twitter responses was given:
There were lots of questions and comments on twitter about the LGBT community: how will the candidates represent the LGBT community in Loughborough?
Steve Coltman: “The same as any other citizens- I will treat them the same as anybody else.”
Bill Piper: “Like anybody else- we are all human beings and should all be treated the same.”
Nicky Morgan: “I listen, represent and fight for. I will take on board the comments that are raised.” Comments on past policies.
Matthew O’Callaghan: “LGBT do face discrimination- this has gone on for centuries and is ongoing. It’s inherent in churches and other places and needs to be challenged. I am against discrimination.”
Matt Sisson: “It’s crazy in this country that we don’t have a broad range sex education ins schools. The Greens are very specific about this. We need courses on all sorts of bullying and a wide range of education- I am fully supportive of Gay Marriage.”
Bill Piper: “Why should we be treated differently? There is discrimination of all types in the world- gender, religion etc. Treat everybody the same.”
Matthew O’Callaghan: “I didn’t dispute that there are other forms of discrimination. There is a case for treating the LGBT and other communities differently.”
Question: environment- what do you think about increased investment in renewable energy in order to reach our CO2 emissions target?
Matthew O’Callaghan: “Climate change is important- the Green leaflet doesn’t actually doesn’t mention these issues… we argue for a reduction in carbon emissions. I’ve been in developing countries and they use more carbon and intensive energy resources- we should give them the technology free of charge so that they don’t have to use the carbon energy sources.”
Matt Sisson: “Increase renewable capacity. Friends of the earth campaign for solar energy. We’re going to take 2 million people out of fuel poverty.”
Bill Piper: “I don’t think the rationale about the CO2 is the right one. We have global warming and climate change”- talks about the cyclical motions of the world.
Nicky Morgan: “Conservatives will provide start up funding for things such as research into renewable energy. We want to invest in a whole mix of energy generation.”
Steve Coltman: “Renewable energy is an important part of solving the energy problem. We have a mountain to climb.”
Matt Sisson: “We are miles behind schedule, languishing behind the rest of Europe. We need a realistic financial contribution, we need to transform a whole economy to put that in place.
Matthew O’Callaghan: “We ought to have a long term strategy. The Government should invest in those businesses.” Matthew related this issue to the current Nepal situation.
Steve Coltman: Talked about the target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2.5% a year. “This is a difficult but a doable target. This will require a mixture of renewable, saving energy- not as simple as planting wind turbines.”
Question- candidates views on nuclear energy
Bill Piper: “We should have invested in this 20 years earlier.”
Steve Coltman: “I have always been a supporter of Nuclear- we can’t manage without it. Our targets are tough so we can’t leave nuclear.” Addressed that the way we’re going about nuclear power is pointless.
Nicky Morgan: “The Conservatives are committed to a mix of energy sources including nuclear power. It is the right decision to get the project up and running.”
Matt Sisson: “We’re more for renewable energy as it is a better long term plan. Nuclear is much more expensive- we’ve seen this from costings. We want to see local companies producing clean energy for the local people.”
Matthew O’Callaghan: “There are clearly concerns about the nuclear waste. We should have our own infrastructure strategy led by British companies to benefit Britain.”
Question- how can we save the planet? I want to know which parties truly believe in these policies for renewable energy and not just for the economy?
Bill Piper: “I agree that we are in need of renewable energies because we’re running out of fossil fuels- we should have done something 20 years ago.”
Nicky Morgan: “There is global warming happening- the issue is not totally related to money- where is the money coming from?”
Audience react to the comments- one disagree with BP, one completely agree with BP.
Matt Sisson: “This is a huge issue- planetary boundaries concerning what exactly we can sustain. We can’t keep expanding our economy- we need to utilise it for a sustainable planet.”
Bill Piper: “Fossil fuels won’t last forever.”
Matthew O’Callaghan: talks of importance of sustainable energy and his work in the rainforest.
Steve Coltman: “Do we really want to find out the hard way? Politicians can’t afford to ignore the majority- we take this seriously.”
Question about the armed forces and abolition of trident…
Bill Piper: “We need to spend more money on defence but also on those who come back- those who are traumatised or injured- we don’t have sufficient funding. But we do need to defend our country.”
Steve Coltman: “There has been a 10-15% cut on arms. The Lib Dems did press for a review on alternatives to trident and there are alternatives-The Government left these out and told lies about the alternatives.”
Nicky Morgan: “We inherited a £38 billion black hole in defence. We’re committed to a renewal of trident and to strong defence of this country.”
Matthew O’Callaghan: “I have lived under the threat of a nuclear warfare under the cuban missile crisis.” Spoke of the crisis and Ukraine being rid of their weapons.
Matt Sisson: “We’re against trident. There is no role for this in the 21st century. They make the world a less safe place.”
Steve Coltman: “We can’t afford to shrink into our shell- I’ve read the Greens defence policies- and in comparison we have to engage in the wider world. I don’t think that the worlds problems can be solved by military means- it needs a military dimension.
Matthew O’Callaghan: “The world is a more dangerous place- the west is being dangerous in getting involved in other peoples’ problems. It was Ed Miliband who argued against involvement in Syria- and we got a majority vote on this.”
Nicky Morgan: “We should look at what’s happening in Syria and this question should be about international aid.” Spoke of the devastation in Syria.
Matt Sisson- Green Party: Talks of “rubbish electoral system” followed by the incredible importance to have your say: voting for what you believe in to send a message out to the whole country- even if your local representative doesn’t win- it still send a message to Parliament. Talks of overall Green policies. “If you believe in change and the common good of everyone- please vote Green”
Bill Piper- UKIP: Spoke of UKIP reps having their own say for their people and not being “whipped” into voting certain ways on policies. UKIP have being setting the agenda on the EU and immigration. Talks about UKIP listening to the people and tackling the issues that the people are concerned about.
Matthew O’Callaghan- Labour: “Labour always has been and always will be a radical party.” Talks of combining health and social care into one. We expanded university education. Talks of equality and addressing the widening gap between rich and poor. Talks of protecting the vulnerable and tackling climate change. “There are just a few votes separating Conservatives and labour in this constituency.”
Nicky Morgan- Conservatives: Shared her thanks for the university and union for hosting the event. Nicky said that she anticipated a rowdier debate and perhaps audience? Clearly hopes that we all vote and that we engage. Delighted to have being the MP for Lough for the last five years. “This is an important seat and can decide which party is going to be in government. Labour cannot govern in a majority, and will only be backed up by the SNP.” Wraps up with brief overview.
Steve Coltman- Liberal Democrats: “Liberal Democrats- it’s in the name, we’re the only party with democracy in our name- we have a pseudo- democracy in this country. We have MPs that are spread thin and don’t focus on the big issues of the day. We focus and need a proper constitutional convention to decide how we can govern ourselves- it’s not about being ruled over by vested interests. Vote Lib Dems because we believe in democracy.”
Comment- Katie Wilson
The debate was less heated than we could have anticipated, and much less so than the likes of the televised versions we’ve seen from the party leaders in recent weeks. However, the event was enjoyable and party policies were outlined alongside some more local information. For me, Greens’ Matt Sisson seemed to engage very well with the students and received a lot of applause throughout the debate- namely because of tuition fee comments and saving the environment. His stature was much more relaxed than that of the other candidates, but this seemed to reflect his age and gave a more student- like feel to his speeches that perhaps we could relate with more.
Having said that, Conservatives’ Nicky Morgan performed her opening and closing statements excellently, as well as responding well to questions throughout the evening. She clearly wanted to prove that she had strong connections with the university previously (you may have seen her around) and gave thanks for this- something which none of the other candidates did. She also performed her statements without notes and clearly proved that her time in office over the last five years have made her a very confident and vigilant speaker.
Matthew O’ Callaghan of the Labour Party also performed with confidence despite a couple of technical issues which didn’t really faze him. The audience also seemed to like him a lot, receiving many rounds of applause throughout the evening and especially on comments for equality. He spoke clearly and in a way that the voters can understand.
Bill Piper of UKIP, although he didn’t seem particularly popular and his comments on energy and the ice caps were a little ambiguous, you have to say that he was easily understandable and came out with some slightly different points to the others. Much of the debate was candidates simply agreeing with what another had said then expanding slightly…However, I was less keen on the policy of treating supposed “STEM” subjects differently to the rest of us- although I was intrigued that I had not heard this before from the UKIP party. Maybe highlighting this was in a hope of gaining some scientific students’ votes…?
Finally, we come to Liberal Democrats’ Steve Coltman. Up first, he opened quite well but he was not so easy to hear as the other candidates. I’m unsure as to whether this was his fault or not, but it was difficult sometimes to hear what he was saying. This was a shame as I feel he probably had some interesting points about students and supporting us through housing, as we know the Liberal Democrats have various ideas on these two issues- but unfortunately neither my ears were up to it, nor the time allowed for him to share them.
Overall, I found Nicky and Matthew the most engaging out of the five. This is probably to be expected, seeing as they are representing the two biggest parties, but this was definitely backed up closely by Matt Sisson who seemed to take a much different stance and approach to this debate, remaining seated throughout.
Don’t forget to vote on May 7th and have your say!
Photography by Liam Cooke and Mark Rennie