Leaders Live Local at BCU. Photo Credits: Jack Mably.
On Thursday 5th February, Birmingham City University hosted the Leaders Live Local debates. Students from across the City’s universities came together, questioning the panel on the latest political issues pertinent to the forthcoming election. We sent along four of our news correspondents to Millennium Point to both listen and interview the panelists to see their views regarding national politics as well as issues affecting students.
Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming MP for Birmingham Yardley
By Brooke Snowe
I asked John Hemming how the Liberal Democrats are going to raise support for the upcoming election, considering that they are only receiving 8% of the vote on average. He said that the average number of votes varies from “constituency to constituency,” but he did not provide any specific suggestions or answers to the question I posed.
However he commented that he does not like austerity but that it is difficult to avoid the inevitability of cuts. When I then asked him about the potential for a second coalition government, he commented that he is opposed to a coalition and would prefer one party to be in government. With regards to local his Yardley constituency, Mr Hemming said he would seek to get more people into work.
During the lecture, a question about overseas students was asked to the panel. The student asking the question stressed that she is worried about immigration officers because she is an overseas student. Mr Hemming seemed particularly passionate about this question and said that there should definitely not be an immigration cap on overseas students. Commenting further he said having a diverse range of students at one university, is a very positive thing.
Check out Brooke’s full recorded interview here:
Labour Councillor Lisa Trickett, Moseley and Kings Heath
By Liam McConkey
With Ed Miliband’s disapproval rating as leader of the Labour Party standing at 61% (Ipsos Mori), I thought it worth asking local Labour Councillor Lisa Trickett if she doubted her leader in the impending General Election.
Quite the opposite, she could not assert enough how Miliband ‘is the leader this country needs’. During the debate, when asked ‘How would she ensure current front line services are protected?’ Ms Trickett replied with statements such as the NHS is under significant pressure and cuts are hitting larger cities unfairly. She continued saying that we will only start to see the affects of austerity in 10 or more years.
In terms of issues relating to students, Ms Trickett discussed the need for licensing of student houses and landlords needed to ensure houses were safe and decent to live in. On tuition fees Ms Trickett said universities needed to be open and accountable so students knew exactly what they were paying for. Speaking afterwards on Birmingham’s Free-Bike Giveaway-which she coordinated- Ms Trickett told me the giveaway would allow people to cycle who couldn’t afford to beforehand.
Accordingly, many of the cycle routes would benefit students especially those who cycle along the Bristol Road. Ms Trickett appeared to sway many in the audience to vote for Labour in the overall debate, I would say though that her somewhat vague responses to questions on policy was what caused her to not win an outright majority.
Check out Liam’s recorded interview here:
Ian Jamieson, Green Party
By Lizzie Sharpe
Green Party Representative Ian Jamieson attended the Leaders Live Local debate stressing the Green Party’s focus on equality, sustainability and having a more inclusive city.
When questioned about the introduction of degrees which may not be considered as ‘worthwhile’, he suggested that Universities should have the right to put on non-vocational courses; he said knowledge should be pursued for it’s own sake, which could then be applied in our everyday lives. When questions turned to student housing, Jamieson put forward a case for housing to be owned by associations, cooperatives and local authorities in an attempt to deal with the ongoing housing issues facing students. Jamieson, furthermore, when asked about loans for masters students outright stated ‘I don’t like the loans system and I think it’s wrong.’
Not only did the debate touch on student issues, but also national ones, covering immigration, technology, benefits and crime. Jamieson made the argument for decriminalising some drugs in an effort to decrease the illegal market for supplying and selling. He was critical of the capitalist system pointing out the issues in the benefits system and the exportation of too many jobs. This was seen in his personal involvement in trying to prevent the outsourcing of Cadbury jobs in the Bournville area.
Check out Lizzie’s full recorded interview here:
UKIP Sutton Coldfield Parliamentary Candidate Marcus John Brown
By Liam McConkey
UKIP has not been fairing well amongst support for students and from the overall vote of Leaders Live, many students appeared unconvinced by policies given by its candidate for Sutton Coldfield.
This was an issue I put forward to Mr Brown in my questions after when I asked him how the party needed to attract student supporters. He said that there had been ‘media mud-slinging by certain political parties which had perpetuated the idea that UKIP is an extreme right-wing racist party.’ Mr Brown continued that this was not helped by the ‘NUS banning UKIP from university campuses’. Although, Mr Brown remained imprecise on how UKIP would achieve greater support from students, he hoped that the party in the approaching election would be more representative ‘of a large proportion of the people.’
Regarding national issues, he believed that UKIP would look to get more people through the justice system faster by removing red tape and life sentences would come to mean life. On the issues relating to students, Mr Brown said UKIP was committed to scrapping tuition fees for those students studying maths and science degrees- a policy which may have reflected the lack of support for UKIP in the overall vote.
However in terms of student housing, Mr Brown said their needed to be a guaranteed availability for housing for students and that broadband should become part of contracts. The question remains is can this be enough for UKIP to gain support from students?
Check out Liam’s recorded interview here:
Conservative Birmingham Edgbaston Parliamentary Candidate Dr Luke Evans
By Saskia O’Keeffe
Dr Luke Evans, the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Birmingham Edgbaston, spoke to BurnFM in a one-on-one interview about some of the key issues in the run up to the General Election this May.
Following the recent NHS ‘crisis’, which has left many concerned over the management and funding of our health care service, Dr Evans spoke of the direction that the Conservative Party have taken over the past five years concerning the NHS. As a practising GP, Dr Evans agreed with the Conservative’s distribution of power to the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) within the NHS stating, “the best people to make the judgement about it are the doctors”.
Evans stressed, however, that there is a wider debate to be had. He argues that both sides of the House of Commons need to “stop using the NHS as a weapon” and recognise the problem is that by 2060 with an ageing population, Britain will have spent “our entire GDP on healthcare”.
Throughout the debate the main focus of questions by the student audience concerned employability. Stating Birmingham as the number one entrepreneurial city Evans supports David Cameron’s action on youth unemployment; outlined in the Conservative 2015 manifesto to create three million apprenticeship schemes.
The discussion quickly turned to graduate employability and Evans stressed the need to make university degrees more malleable to employability by “turning them into business ideas”.
Check out Saskia’s recorded interview here: