Nineteen people attended the Christmas Balloon Debate where five members argued for what they thought was the best national treasure. Each person pleaded their case before Sooty, Pam Ayres, Pie and Mash and the Shipping Forecast were ejected, leaving Chris Lane's choice of the NHS alone to fly the balloon! The attendees also shared seasonal refreshments and a raffle.
Under the chairmanship of Lorry Greenall, the question time panel of Derek Cheek, Helen Rees and Jon Salisbury addressed a variety of topical questions about: local police service cuts, compulsory health insurance, round the clock medical services, trading with China, and abolishing the House of Lords. With many stimulating contributions from the floor it proved to be a thought provoking evening.
This month, prominent Brighton debater Jean Yates proposed that "Voting should be Compulsory" because it is both a civic duty and the core of the democratic process. She considered that the current situation where a small section of the population controls the ballot outcome to be both uninspiring and dangerous and felt that if the whole population participated in elections it would result in a more responsible and representative government.
Opposing the motion, Tony Oswick argued that while it was desirable to encourage more involvement, making voting obligatory would be both idealistic and impractical. He asserted that citizens have an inalienable right not to vote in a free society, and reasoned that the apathetic could not be forced to be interested and abstention could be a form of protest.
Both speakers were commended for a high standard of debate and providing clear and logical arguments however the motion was lost by 15 votes to 4 with 1 abstention.
A small group attended for the debate: "The Freedom of Speech means the Freedom to Insult", Both speakers agreed that freedom of speech is fundamental to British culture. However Proposer Helen Rees considered that it sometimes resulted in offensive language which was acceptable as long as it was in accordance with current legislation. Furthermore she stated that it was difficult to define an insult because not everybody would perceive things in the same way. Opposer Wally Bensilum disagreed, asserting that any statements made could be critical or challenging but never offensive. He felt that people need to be more sensitive to the beliefs of others and understand that verbal abuse can lead to unnecessary conflict.
Following contributions from the floor, the motion was lost by 5 votes to 3 with 1 abstention.
For the debate "Positive Discrimination is never Justified", both speakers were thanked for standing in at the last minute. They defined it as the process of giving preferential treatment especially in employment to minority groups that have been prejudiced against in the past. Proposing the motion, Bill Violen considered it a political minefield which should not be entered. He provided information about what happens globally and argued that it was a nonsense to believe that it could be universally implemented. Opposer Mary Lane asserted that positive discrimination expresses a belief in equality of opportunity and respect for all people. She also argued that it is a practical measure to end centuries of ingrained prejudices and attain a more representative society.
Following contributions from the floor, the motion was lost by 6 votes to 9 with 0 abstentions.
After the debate there was further discussion about the Calais migrant crisis and whether pupils should mark their teachers
Under the chairmanship of Lorry Greenall , the July question time panel of Wally Bensilum, Lawrence Cohen and Chris Lane addressed a variety of topical questions about: payment of overseas aid, the proposed third runway at Heathrow, growing up in the present time, access to pension funds and how to stop swearing at Wimbledon. With many stimulating contributions from the floor it proved to be a thought provoking evening.
Mary Lane retired as Chair of the Society and was thanked for all the hard work she had done throughout the years. Derek Cheek was subsequently voted in as her replacement with Helen Rees as Vice Chair.
The AGM preceded the debate. Sadly Mary Lane is standing down as Chair for the Society and nominations for the post are requested for consideration at the next meeting. Details of the change of venue in July to Imperial House Rosemary Road Clacton on Sea were distributed.
For the June debate, Chris Lane proposed the motion: “Image is more Important than Substance". He stated that people make judgements within 3 seconds of meeting someone based on how they look because their brains are wired to respond in this way He argued that, throughout the ages, humans have used the power of imagery to inform their actions because they have had neither the time nor energy to consider anything else.
Opposing the motion, Lorry Greenall disagreed asserting that substance is of greater consequence since it is about the real person based on their core values and beliefs. She believed that the current preoccupation with appearance contributed to erroneous assumptions, bullying and eating disorders. Nevertheless beauty may attract the eyes but it is character that captures the heart.
Following contributions from the floor, the motion was defeated by 2 votes to 8 with 7 abstentions.
At the May debate, Wally Bensilum proposed the motion that "Conservation is a Luxury we can no Longer Afford". He considered conservation to be important but said it needed to be inexpensive because funding was required to build housing for an ever increasing population. Furthermore he believed that wildlife would adapt to the changing environment as it had done throughout history. Opposing the motion, Lorry Greenall asserted that nature could survive without humans but humans surviving without nature was a different matter. She argued that human wealth and production was dependent on natural resources and the only way to maintain our prosperity was to conserve them. Following contributions from the floor, the motion was lost by 13 votes to 1 with 1 abstention.
Under the chairmanship of Lorry Greenall, the question time panel of Philip Donegan, Helen Rees and Jon Salisbury addressed a variety of topical questions about: the forthcoming election, the Lufthansa air tragedy, pupil violence, the effect of electronic gadgetry on social relationships and the Kennedy Way Health Centre. With many stimulating contributions from the floor it proved to be a thought provoking evening. 22 people attended.
Derek Cheek proposed the motion: “There are too many graduates". He considered that having a university degree once equated with having a top occupation with a good wage. Now, he feels it results in an unbalanced workforce with overqualified people in menial jobs or living on benefits. Furthermore he believes that employers are finding that university has not equipped students with essential working skills.
Opposing the motion, Tony Oswick argued that studying for a degree broadened the mind and facilitated independence through the provision of time for pure education. He reasoned that there had been a revolution in higher education because it now provides opportunities for everyone irrespective of gender, race or social class and to make cut backs would be both highly controversial and regressive. Following contributions from the floor, the motion was won by 9 votes to 5 with 2 abstentions.
For the February debate, Wally Bensilum proposed that: “Local Government should be Local". There is no full report as Lorry was on holiday, however Wally made Debating Society history by getting no votes at all with 7 against the motion and 4 abstentions. The result was evidently a surprise as he made quite a good case for local government!
Mary Lane proposed the motion that "Assisted Death should be Legalised". She asserted that it was a person's right to end their own life and affliction but argued that appropriate legislation needed to be put into place to protect qualified professionals helping them to do so. Opposing the motion, Reverend Guy Thorburn felt that this was the start of a slippery slope. While he appreciated the anguish that suffering can cause he considered that life was a sacred gift from God which should only end when it has run it's natural course.
Following many thoughtful contributions from the floor, the motion was won by 16 votes to 10 with 2 abstentions.