Question Time – 5/5/16

The programme came from Manchester and the panel comprised of Lord Lawson (Conservatives), Lisa Nandy (Labour), Michael O’Leary (chief executive of Ryanair), Benjamin Zephaniah (poet and writer) and Isabel Oakeshott (Daily Mail journalist).

The first question asked what odds the panel would give on Donald Trump becoming President. O’Leary said he would give him good odds as he is under-estimated and Hillary Clinton is not a popular Democratic candidate. Zephaniah said that if Trump did become President, he would have difficulty on keeping his promises, citing the proposed wall between USA and Mexico; he added that it would be the end of the world as it is known if Trump achieved half of what he has promised. Lord Lawson said that he is unlikely to win, but that it is not impossible. Lord Lawson added that Trump would be able to move from the promises he has made if he were to be elected President. Oakeshott likened Trump to David Cameron, saying that Cameron used to give strong views to become known and then toning his views down at a later point. Nandy described Trump as an offensive and divisive candidate following his comments towards various groups of people.

Question two asked if moral principles should be used to decide on how to vote on the EU Referendum because the economic impact is difficult to predict. Lord Lawson agreed that predicting the economic impact would be difficult, but it would be beneficial for Europe and that the EU is looking to create a United States of Europe and that being in the EU restricts British sovereignty and democracy. O’Leary argued that Britain leaving the EU would be economically damaging and that Ryanair would invest less in Britain if Britain voted to leave; he also added that Sterling would be damaged by leaving. O’Leary said that Britain should vote to remain in and reform Europe from within. Oakeshott disagreed with O’Leary, saying that the EU benefits big business, but small businesses struggle. She agreed that the economic impact is unknown, but it would not be apocalyptic. Nandy said that the EU is the biggest export market for Britain and there would be an impact on this if Britain voted to leave and that working with European countries is a positive reason to be staying in the EU. Zephaniah admitted that he is undecided about whether he will vote for Britain to stay or leave and the question asked was not answered, with answers focusing on the economic arguments as opposed to moral arguments. He did say that he is in favour of states working together for the benefit of their populations, but that he wants the politicians he elects to be close. He finished by saying that various rights from Europe gave people equality (Oakeshott later countered that Britain often leads the way in morality), but Lord Lawson countered by saying that British laws had established this and that Britain has no control over its borders. O’Leary likened the debate to the campaign slogan used by Bill Clinton and that people vote on economic issues. Nandy agreed that Europe needs reform, but that voting to leave would not give Britain more control over its decisions. Lord Lawson argued that President Obama’s intervention was based on what is best for USA, not Britain.

Question three asked if six and seven year olds should have to go on strike to protest against SATs. Nandy said she agreed with the phrasing of the question and that a visit to her local school resulted in her being told that assessment is welcome, but there have been over 80 changes since September and there is no confidence in the system and that it shows the government have no ideas about how to improve education. Oakeshott described children on strike with parents as exploitative and that standards need to be raised, adding that it allows the identification of which children need support. Zephaniah agreed with Nandy that there is too much change in schools as a result of government intervention. Lord Lawson said that the standard of education was not good enough and that Michael Gove had done a good job of raising standards whilst he was Education Secretary. He described testing as an important aspect in raising standards and keeping them high. O’Leary said that he wanted his children to be challenged and to do well and that life has challenges; he described strikes as the wrong way to protest about the tests.

The final question asked if Jeremy Corbyn’s position as Labour leader should come under threat if Labour performs badly at the local elections. Oakeshott said that he would remain as leader because whilst he may be unpopular amongst MPs, he is still popular amongst members. Nandy said there is too much negativity around Corbyn and that Labour has experienced success against the Conservatives under his leadership. O’Leary said that his position is unlikely to come under threat as Labour are likely to win the Mayor of London election, but that Corbyn is unelectable to large sections of the country. Zephaniah said that Corbyn faces lots of plotting from the media and his own MPs and that he has known Corbyn for a long time and that he is a principled man who does not crave power. Lord Lawson declined to comment, describing it as an internal issue for the Labour Party.

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