Union’s first debate report: Braverman pulls out

Samuel Kenny reports on the Union’s first debate and the late withdrawal of speaker Suella Braverman KC.

At 8pm, Thursday 14th of October, the Union’s first debate took place that allows non-Union members to experience the Union for free. The motion for the debate, as it is annually, was whether “This house has no confidence in her Majesty’s Government”, which given the current political climate, was sure to be a contentious one. It had been announced that the renowned speakers in the debate for the proposition would be : Lord Adonis, Gina Miller and Richard Burgon and the renowned speakers in opposition would be Suella Bravermann and Andrew Bowie.

However, before the event, it was announced that Suella Braverman KC was unable to attend. The current chaos over the mini budget announcement suggest the government didn’t want one of its main players, away from the action and needed her to return to London. The Union’s President Ahmad Nawaz stated the reasoning provided for Suella not being able to attend was a vote in Parliament due to take place at 4pm, many hours before the debate started. This evidently created a spiralling effect with both Lord Adonis and Andrew Bowie also pulling out of the debate. What was clearly a chaotic couple of hours for the Union members organising the debate resulted in three students and Sir Desmond Swayne, the prominent anti-lockdown Tory MP, replacing the original speakers.

 The emergency debate, prior to the headline debate on confidence in the government, was whether “this house believes we should nationalise the railways”. The proposition side raised points such as the “railways already being de facto nationalised” and the current format of a state-enforced monopoly is simply “not efficient”, “the railways should be brought into full public ownership”. The proposition also raised the point that most of the issues people accuse the government of could easily be applied to the private firms that run the railways: “Inefficient, corrupt, and unaccountable”. There was a controversial moment when a speaker from the floor argued the “British state run the railways well in India” and India as a whole was run “well” by the British state to the gasps of everyone in the audience.  The opposition raised points such as the government always run services “less efficiently” than private companies and that since the 1950s, 55% of rail lines have been closed down by national governments so clearly the government “isn’t reliable”. A verbal vote was taken and while many in the room believed those in favour of the motion were louder, the chair decided to rule in favour of those against.

The headline debate took place with a packed-out audience and speakers on both sides were acclaimed to have spoken well and provided a very dignified debate.

Jenny Grehan Bradley (History student from Hertford) opened the Union’s first debate for the proposition (This house has no confidence in His Majesty’s government). Jenny made the argument that Liz Truss has been catastrophic for the country in only 5 weeks, she has abandoned the big state conservatism that Boris Johnsons espoused, the financial market has no confidence in her and her premiership has been defined by U-turn after U-turn.

Conrad Moe (History student from Teddy Hall) opened the debate for the opposition. Acknowledged things are clearly not going great, citing Labour’s 30-point lead in the polls. Conrad’s main argument was the Tories have faced external events outside their control, these include the pandemic, a war in Ukraine and the crisis of inflation and energy costs. Conrad also drew attention to the current conservative cabinet being the most diverse in history. Kwasi Kwarteng was supposedly proof of social mobility (a man who is also now out of a job).

Richard Burgon (MP for Leeds East) spoke in favour of the motion. He outlined that the UK, as the 6th biggest economy in the world, should not be allowing the levels of poverty that are currently present. Burgon alleged that 300,000 excess deaths caused by austerity are on Tory hands. More food banks than McDonalds, anti-trade union laws, voter suppression and Gas and Oil companies making £2000 a second in profit.

 Tim Green (Senior Access Officer of the Oxford Union and PPE student of Regents Park College) spoke against the motion and argued that Suella Braverman and Kwasi Kwarteng were both inspirations as politicians. Liz Truss represents the third female Tory leader, to Labours zero. Starmer is a liar after abandoning his ten pledges and the Tories have delivered for the British people the past 12 years on immigration, the economy and Brexit.

The proposition ended with a speech by Gina Miller on who the Conservative party truly listens to (rich donors like Crispin Odey). She ended with impassioned plea that as the mother of children, she doesn’t want this government looking after them.

The opposition ended with a speech, light in tone, by Sir Desmond Swayne MP in which he laboured on a quote by Piglet in A.A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh that “no is a very big word” and that if the audience had any ounce of confidence, they should vote in opposition.

“No is a very big word”

Clearly, they did not, as the vote, which was taken two hours after the start of the debate, resulted in the house overwhelmingly in favour of “This house has no confidence in His Majesties government”.

Image Credits: Barker Evans

Image Description: Debate Chamber of the Oxford Union Society