by Alan Dean on 21 May, 2017
This motion was debated by the Rab Butler Society in Saffron Walden’s town hall last Thursday evening. The motion was approved by an overwhelming 31 votes to 13. An initial vote at the commencement saw a much narrower approval of 21:17.
Proposing the motion was Mike Hibbs, the Liberal Democrat candidate in June’s snap general election. Mike was supported by Simon Ede, a fellow Liberal Democrat from Saffron Walden. Opposing the motion was Kemi Badenoch and Ben Balliger. Both are Conservatives, and the former if their new candidate for the Saffron Walden Constituency. Hence, political rivals on opposite sides of the debating chamber.
The debate was well conducted. The chairman, Paul Fairhurst, did well. There was only one call of “order, order!” when the audience’s murmuring grew too loud.
The key arguments in support of the motion were that the reason Theresa May called for an election had less to do with the welfare of the country and more to do with internal divisions within the Conservative Party and her wish to (somehow) be able to side-line its extreme right-wing free marketeers. This line of argument was naturally rejected by the opposing side, who repeated the Strong and Stable Government mantra of the PM and her stated desire to be given a strong public mandate for the forthcoming negotiations over our planned departure from the European Union. What was not answered by Mrs May’s backers was what deal she actually wants deliver and, therefore, what outcome we are being asked to vote for on June 8th.
In fact, the question I asked on that point was rebuffed in the standard way by the claim that the PM can’t give her game away now. In which case, I asked (under my breath), why an election now? The proposers argued repeatedly that the public should have a say on the offered deal at the end of the negotiations. This is the Lib Dems’ second referendum, which Mr Balliger said several times was the reason why people who sympathised with that view should vote Liberal Democrat.
Well, people at the debate seemed to be swayed by that and other arguments to shift their vote. Whether the public at large will be so persuaded remains to be seen on June 9th.
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