Judging from the Union’s termcard, Hilary looks set to be a fantastic term for its members, with big names like Armando Iannucci (creator of The Thick of It and an instrumental figure in the invention of national treasure, Alan Partridge) and piano-centric New Year enthusiast Jools Holland making appearances. For us non-Union members, there are still events on offer, with the first half of term presenting an array of interesting debates, ranging from discussions on liberty and freedom to how social media affects our everyday relationships.
Both figures, for their own reasons, produced results unexpected by many, and the questions that they have raised about our democracies and the political cohesion of what we have for a long time taken to be our liberal societies will be the most formative of the coming years.
For me, though, the most exciting debate looks to be that of Third Week – ‘This House Believes that Liberalism has Become Elitist’. In the present political climate, it’s certainly relevant enough; the wave of populism is apparently ever-ascending, embodied as it is by the surprising victory of bankruptcy-mogul Donald Trump in the U.S. elections. In political terms, we live in a time when tensions and frustrations are becoming manifest in what are, to many, shock developments, and this issue – the alleged elitism of what is increasingly being labelled the liberal ‘establishment’ – cuts to the very heart of the 2016/2017 Zeitgeist.
Indeed, discussion is promised of the notion that liberalism is losing its appeal to the majority, which is a particularly pressing issue when one considers the two big contrasting numbers that 2016 gave us – 48% and 3 million (respectively, the number that voted Remain in the Brexit referendum and Hillary Clinton’s popular vote majority). What can we make of these numbers, which seem to offer contradictory data about the popular appeal of liberalism in the West? Both figures, for their own reasons, produced results unexpected by many, and the questions that they have raised about our democracies and the political cohesion of what we have for a long time taken to be our liberal societies will be the most formative of the coming years.
Certainly, the participants will produce an interesting consideration of the proposition. Anna Soubry (opposition) will face off against ex-UKIP Steven Woolfe (proposition), and journalists Dan Hodges (opposition) and Kerry-Anne Mendoza (proposition) should offer particularly interesting perspectives on the issue in a post-truth post-2016. If you’re looking for a Union event to attend, then this is definitely a good bet.