Students gathered on Thursday evening at the Keighton Auditorium for The Big Debate, organised by URN and The Politics Society. All of Nottingham South’s general elections candidates debated questions sent in from students as well as points from the floor.
The candidates were: Lillian Greenwood MP for Labour and Nottingham South’s current MP, Jane Hunt for the Conservatives, David Hollas for UKIP and Adam McGregor for the Green Party.
Youth unemployment is at 14%. An analysis by the House of Commons has shown that young people are comparatively worse than at any point since 1992. Youth apathy and anger at the political class is stronger than ever. What can politicians do to tackle this, and stop creating a ‘lost generation’?
Lillian spoke about how she regularly speaks to students at stalls and surgeries and cited her work with the Three Faiths Forum in their parliamentary internship. She also supported votes at 16.
Jane wishes to abolish jobs tax for companies wanting to employ young people and would also like to reform GCSEs and vocational qualifications as the CBI (Confederation of Business Industry) has said that these do not equip people with the right skills.
Adam believes that the minimum wage needs to be standardised across all ages. The Scottish referendum had a high turnout because people cared about issue, so he believes that there should be recall referenda and more referenda on specific issues so the people can truly hold their representatives to account and engage with the political process. There also needs to be more more differentiations between the mainstream parties so people have more choice.
David pointed that many people, not just students feel disaffected and that education is the key to reducing any apathy.
Labour have proposed to cut tuition fees and tax students later, but what are all the parties going to do about the fact that my maintenance loan doesn’t cover my rent?
David says he understands the maintenance loan issue and that those that struggle most are from middle class families who have assets but are not able to offer. He said he would not be willing to completely support increasing the loan amount, but would look into the means-testing aspect.
Adam backs grants instead of loans and wants to stop university halls charging higher than the loan amount. He backs the compulsory licensing scheme policy in The Notts Student Manifesto. He believes landlords are given too much support on buying properties to rent out whereas students are not given enough support when renting, so this balance needs addressing.
Jane says that OECD say we have one of the most sustainable higher education systems in the world and that is in part due to the current finance system. She believes that those that can pay for their education should do so, so that the system can help those that can not. If elected, she wants to investigate the situations of families with more than one student to see if policy needs changing.
Lillian pledges to increase the maintenance grant to low income families. She thinks letting agent fees should be banned as these are simply passed onto students.
With the rise of smaller parties like UKIP and the Greens, is it time for electoral reform to represent interests more proportionally?
Adam points out the First Past The Post (FPTP) is outdated as candidates can get elected in on around 30% of the vote only and therefore supports a proportional voting system. He would also introduce a standardised funding to ensure that all parties have a fairer amount of exposure.
Lillian said she supported the AV vote referendum a few years ago but pointed out that it was rejected and that is why we have FPTP now.
David says FPTP means not everyone’s votes are equal and personally prefers the AMS system in Scotland as it’s more democratic and representative.
It is estimated from ONS figures that 2million EU nationals live in the UK and 1.7million UK nationals live overseas. Hypothetically if the UK voted to leave the EU after a referendum, what would happen to these migrants, their freedom to move would presumably be revoked, do we send back the 2 million EU nationals, or offer them a pathway to citizenship, do we recall the 1.7million UK nationals in Europe, won’t we be in migration crisis?
Jane says there would be no repatriation on either side but says that as an island nation there are space restrictions and that is why immigration rules have been tightened. She promises an EU referendum in 2017.
Adam supports an EU referendum to allow the people to decide but personally wants to stay in the EU, freedom of movement is essential for the EU to function as an economic community.
Lillian points out that people are mainly worried by low-skilled migrants and need to make sure they are not exploited. The benefits of immigration are many.
David says his party are not anti-immigration but that the scale of immigration is currently too big which is putting pressure on the country’s services. He therefore supports and Australian style points based system.
How do each party intend to counter wealth inequality in the UK?
Lillian pledges to raise the minimum wage to at least £8 an hour and increase the amount of free childcare available, introduce a 10p starter tax rate.
David would take those on the minimum wage out of tax altogether and would reduce the number of people on the 40p tax rate.
Adam would massively reform taxation through a wealth tax on the rich, a robin hood tax on financial transactions, as well as increasing welfare. He would also roll out the living wage nationally.
Jane said that they would raise the minimum wage and cut income tax for 26 million people.
Image: James Oates