A full house at the first Oxford Union debate of the year voted in favour of the proposition, “This House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s government” this Thursday evening. The results were counted as 185 for and 135 against. Speakers included MP Mhairi Black and MP John Mann for the proposition, and MP Andrew Mitchell and Lord Andrew Lansley for the opposition.
The debate was largely dominated by the proposition’s MP speakers, while the opposition fell back on criticising the ‘alternative’ option. The night also saw a surprise appearance from former MP Edwina Currie, who won the competition for the best speech open to the floor.
Elizabeth Webb, Regent’s Park College, began the proposition side of the debate by criticising Conservative policies on NHS, education and reform. Webb highlighted Brexit, “the elephant in the room” and stated “the reason why the pound is plummeting is that no-one has the foggiest idea what Brexit means”.
Magdalen’s Julian Kirk, returned the accusations by claiming that it was “delusional” to suggest the Conservatives would be able to work out Brexit rules within 3 months. Kirk pointed to the Conservative party’s successes, including equal opportunities, claiming “it was this government that recognised same sex marriages”. His argument however, quickly fell short as a point of information from the audience explained that this government was Theresa May’s, not David Cameron.
The debate then fell to the MP speakers. John Mann both shocked and entertained the audience by accusing the government of abusing democracy and consequently becoming increasingly similar to China. Mann blamed the government for falling behind in multiple areas, including high-speed rail, energy and fracking, claiming that “the government have an energy policy: frack, frack, frack! The lights might not be on by 2020”.
Mhairi Black brought up similar issues to her 2015 Maiden speech, asking “why are we living in a society where food banks are normal? We are living in a Victorian society here”. She defended the SNP and Scottish independence, areas she felt the conservatives had failed. Mhairi also commented on increasing hate crimes, stating that “fascism creeps up on us” and “the rhetoric that I hear from that Conservative party conference can only be considered, and must be considered, the first steps down those slippery slopes”
Throughout the night, the opposition frequently pointed to the lack of alternatives, in particular the Labour party. MP Andrew Mitchell claimed “the Labour party has become a movement, not a party in waiting”. Lansley meanwhile, commented on the political scene claiming “Greens couldn’t organise a punch up in the pub, and UKIP, a punch up in the pub is all they could organise!”.
Both Lord Andrew Lansley and MP Andrew Mitchell, also focused on defending Theresa May. In response to claims that the government was undemocratic, Lansley stated “the reason Theresa May won’t call an election is because she puts the good of the country before the good of her party”. Mitchell defended May by saying “the government that Mrs May is leading needs time to show that it can succeed on the vital issues, the alternative is either as yet uninformed, unsighted or chaos”.
When the floor opened up to members, Edwina Currie also took the opportunity to support the opposition side, describing what has happened in the last three months as “marvellous and astonishing”.
The proposition side nonetheless took the majority at the end of the night, with 50 more votes than the opposition.