OLC, OUCA, Greens and OULD hold cross-party debate

In a cross-party debate featuring OUCA, OLC, the Greens, and OULD, students debated key domestic issues including the NHS, taxation, and welfare spending ahead of the May 2nd local by-elections, where Oxford students voted in their local constituencies.

The debate was in Prime Minister Questions style and featured speakers from Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA), Oxford Labour Club (OLC), Oxford University Liberal Democrats (OULC) and the Oxford Student Greens. OUCA acted as His Majesty’s Government, while the rest acted as Opposition.

The OUCA President joked “yes” as the mock-Prime Minister when asked whether NHS outsourcing to private contractors was the reason for the lack of commitment to improvements and said NHS appointments and hires were increasing.

Responding to a question from the audience whether an increase in the number of people being treated in corridors is part of these higher standards, he answered: “[Labour] have no more of a plan than we do.”

Commenting on the UK economy, mock Chancellor of the Exchequer and the OUCA Treasurer-Elect remained confident, and said: “The UK economy is growing faster than any Western economy except the US.” Data released last week on G7 growth rates place all G7 economies except Germany as having ‘higher growth rates than the UK’ since the pre-pandemic period. 

The Treasurer-elect also said that the Conservatives aimed to continue protecting low Inheritance tax rates to encourage foreign investment.

In response to an audience question alleging that food insecurity was at a high, he said that though claimants for such support had risen, these were not all people who were “legitimately disabled”, and that the welfare state was set up for the employed.

The debate moved on to discuss more on the UK’s international policy, where the Treasurer-elect also believed that the alleged £1bn per cohort cost for the Rwanda scheme was “not real money.”

Shadow home-secretary Yvette Cooper said last month that “to send 1% of UK asylum seekers to Rwanda, the taxpayer will be forced to fork out over half a billion pounds”, not accounting for money already spent.

The mock Home Secretary and the OUCA President-elect stated that “Rwanda is a safe country because parliament said so”, and blamed a “woke judiciary” for the alleged £2m cost per head. 

The mock Secretary of State and OUCA Chief of Staff believed the UK is “leading on the net-zero stuff.” On foreign policy and defence, he claimed that “resolutions at the UN had no effect.” When it comes to arms sales, he accused Labour of “picking and choosing which dictators to support”, but later added that the UK has to “wisen up” Germany for supporting the “despot in the Kremlin.” He also stressed that British aircraft carriers were ‘out defending us”, though an audience member responded that the HMS Queen Elizabeth was currently undergoing repairs.

Towards the end of the debate, referencing an earlier joke by a Labour speaker about the OUCA speakers being in Reform UK, he said: “This is why I’m in Reform UK.” 

The leader of the Greens accused the mock-government of “wordplay and cheap jokes” while another Green speaker added, “I will not be proud of this country until we stand up for some of the most disadvantaged countries in the world.”

Mock-Leader of the Opposition and ex-OLC Chair opened a 30-second reply speech saying that “Labour is coming out with a radical manifesto.”

Student representatives from the Liberal Democrats described the debate as “empty promises from both sides.”

Asked about the event, an audience member said: “The fact that OUCA people will be in power one day scares me for the future of my country. There was a lack of empathy and heart in the whole debate; no one’s really in touch with the issues.”

Another audience member commented on the discussions about prison reform, saying: ‘It became increasingly clear that people in student politics don’t know much facts or reality. It’s quite obvious they are Oxford students, playing into the stereotype.”

This article was updated on 7 May 2024 to anonymise the students involved in this debate.