Pupils in Years 6 and 7 have the opportunity to get involved in debating in a weekly club at Emanuel. Here’s the lowdown on what debates took place in autumn 2021.

Autumn Term

Week 12 : “This House thinks that the UK government fails to follow the rules it expects everyone else to follow.”

We began with a light hearted mention of Christmas parties and Dominic Cummings’ trip to Barnards Castle.

Oliver was in two minds as he drew a distinction between a Law and “Guidance”.  He admitted that it looks bad for the Government / 10 Downing St to be appearing to wriggle and evade rules, artificially distinguishing between “Christmas party” and “business meeting”.  The Government DOES appear hypocritical for not applying their own guidance to themselves, but he does not think that they are legally at fault.  However, it is an example of bad leadership.  The Government does feel shame and knows that it was wrong, but tries to hide its own guilt.  Oliver does NOT think that we should expect to hold the government to a higher standard of behaviour than anyone else.  There should be a distinction made between personal choice / action and the behaviour of an institution, between the systemic and the individual.  Clearly it is very irresponsible to consciously break the law.  However, the extremely tight, unprecedented guidance on restrictions is challenging to obey.  Oliver queried why his life should be so disrupted by Covid when he is not really likely to be badly affected by it.  Covid is not very damaging to young people.  A police follow up to this “party” story would be a waste of resources and should be a really low priority.  There are far more important issues to consider, such as the impact of Covid restrictions on the education and life chances of children and students.  The issued guidance should be followed and it is unethical for the guidance to be ignored by those who have made it applicable to all.

Nico pointed out that the UK has a long tradition of equality under the law, and that the Government is failing to follow both guidance and laws.  The Government has been lax in enforcement, and Nico called for greater restrictions in the light of the spread of the Omicron variant.  He does not want to hold the Government to a higher standard than anyone else.  He also pointed out the problems in constantly changing regulations and in the grey area between the law imposing unprecedented controls on peoples’ lives and non legal “guidance” (also unprecedented) as to how good citizens ought to behave.

Mr Keddie challenged this, asserting that it was only right that both the Government and the police should be held to a higher standard as exemplars of what behaviour is expected.

Nico disagreed, all should hold to similar standards.  He also pointed out that Covid has not been all bad – there have been useful life skills learned about resilience and online skills.

Anna accepted that only a few people were involved in the “party”; and that there is a distinction between a law and mere unenforceable guidance.  Nonetheless she thought it SCANDALOUS that the public should be expected to obey but those in power think that they are above the rules.  Everyone should follow the same standards.  We are told to wear masks not for ourselves but for the health of others.  It is vital that the government takes its own instructions seriously or else the guidance loses all credibility and is seen as a joke.  Well educated 10 Downing St people should know better.  Everyone else was expected to abide by the rules set the Government.

Aidan argued that guidance is a mistake – it should be made law, not just advice with no consequences for breaking it.  There is a clear distinction between ignoring the advice not to travel during storm Barra (endangering only yourself) and ignoring Covid restrictions (endangering yourself AND all those around you).

Lara agreed that it should be illegal to ignore instructions, but also that the Government must be seen to follow its own rules or risk undermining the credibility of the guidance.  The Police should investigate the “party”.

Max adopted a more libertarian approach.  Both mask wearing and parties should be a choice.  It should be up to you whether to attend the party or not.  Of course the party should not be organised by an institution, which should not take unnecessary risks.  It should be up to the individual whether to attend or not.  It is hypocritical of those in Government to ignore the guidance they have themselves told others to follow.

George argued that now it appears that rules have been broken it is up to the Government to clean themselves up and show that they are responsible and respectable.  Those who didn’t follow the rules should be sacked and publicly humiliated.  The whole issue brings Government, and MPs , into disrepute.

VOTE:     YES  7   (Government does break / ignore its own rules     /     NO   0

Week 11: This House thinks that migrants who enter the UK illegally should be treated differently from those who follow the authorised process.

Oliver argued that the UK should be working to make legal routes much easier in order to reduce the appeal of illegal (and far more dangerous) routes.  For example, it should be possible to apply to migrate to the UK at any overseas British embassy, or at a processing centre in France.  He also wanted to distinguish between safe migrants and those who were dangerous / had a criminal record.

Nico argued that we have a duty to help desperate people, and that our wealth and population size are such that we could and should take more political refugees.  The key is to end the international crises and wars that are causing so many people to flee to other countries.

Dasha wanted it to be made easier for those who have arrived illegally to start working as this is the best way to improve their situation.  Legal and illegal migrants should be treated the same.  It is very dangerous for people to try to evade detection and live / work n the UK “under the radar”.

Mr Keddie pointed out that about 80% of those who arrive illegally are subsequently found to have a justified claim and are granted the right to remain in the UK.

Isak wanted an Australian style points system for the UK, based on the economic needs of the UK.  We should welcome new arrivals as being good for our country and for our economy.

Max also wanted all migrants to be treated equally but said that those who don’t have a reasonable claim, or who are dangerous, should be removed effectively.  There IS a difference between an economic migrant and a political refugee.  We should simplify the legal process to be followed in order to put the people smugglers out of business.  We should help would be migrants much closer to their home, so that they have less incentive to travel to the UK and other Western countries.  Rich countries should pay to reduce the pull factor that encourages economic migration.

Adam saw a problem in that the UK is a very attractive country to Economic migrants because of the pull factors of the English language (which many migrants have learnt at school), plus we are a rich country in which it is too easy to work illegally.  In fact the UK is short of workers and should encourage legal migration.  Migrants should follow the authorised procedures and should only be able to work legally.

Aidan Yang wanted legal and illegal migrants to be treated differently.  The UK must encourage a proper safe process.  We should remove the incentives to arrive illegally.  Those who arrive illegally should be arrested, detained, and treated differently from those who arrive legally.  The pull factors need to be addressed – language; the fact that many migrants already have relatives in the UK; and the chance to work illegally in the UK even without legal status because the UK does not have ID cards.

Mr Keddie pointed out that the current Nationality and Borders bill passing through Parliament tries to treat legal and illegal migrants differently.


YES     4        (legal migrants should be treated differently from illegal migrants)

Although conditions should not be worse…..

NO     4

WEEK 10  This House thinks that Britain is a corrupt country in which rich people can buy political influence.

Nico thought that Britain is very corrupt.  Political views are all about money, especially in the case of the Conservative party under Boris Johnson, but also under Theresa May.  Politicians should seek power to help people, NOT to make money for themselves.  Life long politicians end up as corrupt, cynical and self-interested.  He preferred those in politics as a second career, ho have done a real job and know what is realistic, not just theoretical.  Selling influence is different from doing a “proper” second job.  Nico was very critical of the Conservative party, calling hostile to foreigners, racist and misogynistic.  He thought that there have been many negative consequences of Brexit and that Boris Johnson appoints people who are known to be dodgy to important posts.  Johnson has himself been investigated several times.  Rich people CAN buy political influence, for example the going rate for a seat in the Lords seems to be about £3 million.  The Owen Paterson affair is about “paid lobbying” – buying political influence for pressure groups and big business.

Mr Keddie pointed out that it was a bit unfair to say that ALL political donations are inevitably corrupt.

Oliver wondered if “corruption” was an absolute term or a comparative one.  He thought that the UK is comparatively less corrupt than the USA, or than the vast majority of countries in Africa or Asia.  Of course, inevitably, rich people can buy political influence (eg Jeff Bezos) but the UK is not that bad, not very corrupt, because other countries are worse.  No country is perfectly non corrupt.

Mr Keddie pointed out that if the wages of MPs had increased in line with average wages since MPs were first paid in 1911 then MPs today would be paid about £180,000 pa instead of their actual current salary of £82,000 pa.

Oliver insisted that rich people will always buy influence and will always need to checked – “as long as you can afford to buy stuff you can always buy more”.

Ruby thought that far from the entire country being corrupt, in fact the problem is confined to just a few individuals.

George agreed – rich people can always buy political influence anywhere.

Anna thought that the UK political system is corrupt to a limited extent, but less so than most other countries.  Rules should apply to everyone, instead of friends of the PM getting away with things.  There are only a few bad apples, but they definitely need to be removed from the barrel.

Bianca thought that politicians are meant to set an example, to be honest, to answer questions properly and not to hide corruption.  Boris Johnson is a BAD example.  He IS corrupt, and his behaviour allows the impression that corruption exists, which merely encourages it.

Mr Keddie referred to the old saying that “A fish rots from the head down” – the example set by the leader is really important in setting the tone of the institution as a whole.

Aidan thought that some Conservatives ARE partly corrupt, more so than other parties.  The best disinfectant of corruption is transparency and being held to account.

Lara  agreed that Owen Paterson is not a good example of behaviour, but at least the PM failed to protect his friend.  However, the PM only did a U turn under pressure.  In truth (!) morality is NOT a strong point for this PM.  Morality does exist – there are clear standards that need to be enforced.

Max thought Boris Johnson to be irresponsible.  He is neither a moral leader nor a credible one.  He is personally corrupt, which encourages corruption in others.  Politicians should set an example and should follow higher standards than others.  Boris is encouraging bad behaviour by his attitude.


Yes     5     (Britain is a corrupt country)

No      5      (Britain is less corrupt than most other countries).   

Week 9: “This House thinks that COP26 has been a success”

Elsa agreed with Greta Thunberg that COP 26 has been “just more blah blah, blah”. Elsa noted that China and India had failed to agree to end Coal. Elsa does not trust politicians. They never keep their word. The claims of progress are an illusion because politicians have not kept their promises in the past. For example, the failure to stop deforestation. The selfish older generation are ignoring the future of the younger generations.

Success can be defined as genuine, detailed promises and actual performance. The current COP 26 promises will NOT limit temperature rises to 1 ½ degrees above preindustrial levels. There should be more compensation from developed countries to developing countries to subsidise them to bypass fossil fuels. We need to change attitudes as well as emissions. Elsa does not trust the Government to act. The responsibility to act is shared between the Government and individual citizens.

Oliver disagreed. Politicians are decent human beings. They are not lying or disingenuous. The COP 26 agreement is fragile, but the US / China joint statement on coal is a good thing. COP 26 is NOT very sensational, not a dramatic change, but it is more good than bad, a partial success, although not a complete success. It is a step in the right direction.

Mr Keddie suggested that COP 26 is part of an ongoing process, and that it HAS successfully raised awareness and changed public attitudes.

Nico strongly disagreed with this. He thought the politics of COP26 was largely based on lies. Politicians don’t keep their promises. COP 26 has been a fake show, an illusion, a repetition of platitudes, simply kicking the can even further down the road at a time when we are rapidly running out of road. It goes nothing like far enough. We are too close to a point of no return. There have to be MUCH greater restrictions on our current way of living.

Elsa disagreed with this. COP26 has not just been a performance – it is good to talk. The fact that there IS a process means that we recognise that there is a problem. COP26 has successfully drawn attention to the urgency of the issue, the point of no return is getting closer! There has been much more media coverage and public awareness than ever before. It is not too late to act. We have failed to live up to past promises, and the proposal to meet up again next year is an admission of failure to act NOW. Green capitalism CAN work if promises are kept and investment is switched to renewables.

Katya thought that Government promises for outcomes by 2030 or 2040 are too far in the future and mean nothing. Action should have been taken earlier. Bigger countries need to provide a lead. Words mean nothing without deeds, and detailed practical plans are essential.

In contrast, Kitty argued that we cannot stop the world to fix climate change. We have to be careful about the economic consequences of our promises. We need evolutionary change, not revolutionary change, despite the fear that we may have left change too late. Action is essential now, the later we leave it the more expensive and difficult it will be to limit the problem. Consciousness raising is vital, backed up by new taxes on waste.

VOTE For (COP a success) 0 Against (COP not a success) 6

We discussed the same topic with a different group on Thursday 18 November.

Macsen argued that COP 26 has been a partial success, with some good targets set. However, China (the biggest CO2 emitter) was not there and the India target of limiting coal use by 2070 is so far in the future as to be meaningless. There has been limited success in reforestation pledges and promises to cut methane. This is the first time there has been serious financial backing for change. We need to alter international attitudes and offer more assistance to China and India, who both have urgent economic problems now. We should offer them help with changing their infrastructure. A carrot is needed as a stick would be ineffective.

Anna attacked the selfish behaviour on display at COP26, especially the extensive use of private jets. She called for the scrapping of national rivalries and for international cooperation. India IS taking action, the real issue is our own Western lifestyle of unsustainable conspicuous consumption.

Aidan thought that COP26 has been a partial success, but that it had largely repeated targets, rather than living up to them. Greta Thunberg has a good point, and has successfully raised awareness, but she is too old (!!!!) and needs to let younger people take over.

Ruby called on countries to stop blaming each other. We have to cooperate and work together. Greta Thunberg has a lifestyle to admire and she is not a hypocrite, unlike so many of the politicians at COP26. Both countries and individuals need to actually change. The environment is vital.

Mr Keddie suggested that Greta Thunberg could be more effective is she quietened down and was less radical.

Zachary thought that COP 26 was merely empty, illusionary promises and grandstanding. There was no success, as shown by the extensive use of private jets. Leaders were simply looking for popularity in a fashionable cause. We need to be calm and explain the problem even more fully and clearly, instead of frightening people with prophecies of unavoidable doom.

George said that more help should be offered to smaller, developing countries. Developed countries have a duty of care. The promises made at COP are fine but the timeframe is not – meet targets by 2025, NOT 2035.

Max thought the COP had raised the profile of the issue. It is now almost universally accepted that man made climate change exists. It does not help to exaggerate the extent of the problem. We need essential change soon, but we can’t expect to achieve everything in one go. COP 26 was as much of a success as was reasonably possible in the circumstances. It can only be part of the process. The process IS working, but it is too early to judge success.


YES (COP a success) 0 No (COP a failure) 5


Week 8: “This House thinks that the UK should build more nuclear power stations to help reduce the causes of climate change.”

Lara agreed that Britain needs to build more nuclear power stations. We need to reduce fossil fuels and reduce CO2 emissions. The use of Nuclear power by civilians is peaceful, although there is admittedly the risk that enriched uranium can be used for nuclear weapons.

Anna argued that we do need a few nuclear power stations as back up for renewables when the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine, but it should not be our MAIN source of energy. Nuclear power stations are slow to build and produce lots of Carbon Dioxide during construction. There is no safe way to safely store the radioactive material (spent nuclear fuel). It is more important that we change our attitudes and how we live. Nuclear power stations can only be a temporary solution. It is crucial to act NOW to change our way of life. Each of us has a duty do our best, to do what we can to reduce climate change.

Mr Keddie pointed out that France generates 70% of her electricity from nuclear, and produces less CO2 that does Germany. The nuclear industry has a generally good safety record – despite terrible accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Ruby argued that we ARE making a difference and that there IS a technological solution. She linked technological solutions to changes in attitude.

George thought that more nuclear power stations would be a good short term solution to the need for a reliable base load of electricity, and would help the transition to Britain being Carbon Neutral. Failure to act NOW will mean a an average global temperature rise of more than 1 ½ degrees centigrade.

Amelle did not want to damage the planet any more, but also did not want to change the way we live. We should only build the essential number of nuclear power stations. She called for local action to change what we can. We should focus on changing our OWN lifestyle.

Mr Keddie suggested that we CAN BOTH save the planet AND make a profit through the concept of “Green Capitalism”. Germany got rid of all its nuclear power stations, and consequently uses MORE fossil fuel than France does.

VOTE: 5 for, 0 against. We DO want more nuclear power stations!

Week 7: “This House believes that parents shouldn’t be able to choose their baby’s gender”

Humphry thought that parents SHOULD be allowed to decde the gender of their child, but with restrictions.  For example only once.  He also thought that gender choices by parents should only be for medical reasons (to avoid diseases that affect the sexes differently) and NOT for purely cultural reasons (simply preferring boys to girls, for example).

Adam thought that parents should leave the gender of their baby to chance and try to be happy with the outcome.  Your child’s future is more important than your own.

Kiki argued that parents should NOT be allowed to decide, but that they DO have a right to know the gender of their embryo so long as they don’t act upon that knowledge.  Kiki strongly emphasised that there is NO reason in the modern world why the male sex should be preferred.  There should be Gender Equality.

Mr Keddie pointed out that it is illegal to carry out a gender scan in India because of so many female embryos being subsequently aborted.  In China the “one child” policy led to large numbers of female babies being abandoned and the population having many more young boys than young girls.

Anna thought that the biological sex of a baby should not matter.  She also argued that children should be free to choose the gender with which they identify.

Anna argued that IVF (In Vitro Feritilisation) should not be allowed to determine the gender of embryo.  She also agreed that gender identification should be up to the child to decide when they are older.

Vasileva recognised the danger of social trends discriminating against female embryos (as has happened in both India and China).  She thought that no human has the right to choose their child’s sex or gender identity.  Medical reasons are not enough to allow parents to choose.

Ruby disagreed with this.  Parents should be free to choose in the Liberal West, although there would be problem applying this rule world wide because of the risk of abortion, which she thought wrong.

Max said that the sex of an embryo should not be a reason to abort it.  You can’t always get what you want.  There is no moral superiority of the rights of the parents over the rights of the unborn child.  There is not generally a problem in the liberal West, but a country should be able to ban “gender scans” if there is a social problem of discriminatory abortion based on gender.  Parents should not be selfishly free to choose.  Although medical reasons are a valid factor (depending on the percentage risk of a hereditary disease) the decision should be made by a medical professional, not by the parents

Macsen agreed that medical reasons are an adequate excuse for intervention over gender, BUT it would have to be a high percentage risk of a severe medical problem, not just a low risk.  He thought that a 75% chance of severe disease would be enough to justify intervention.

Sonny agreed that it would have to be a high likelihood of a serious medical condition.


For (parents have no right to choose gender)              6

Against (parents CAN choose gender)                           5

The close vote reflects the difficult choices on this topic.

Week 6: “This House thinks that the Police should NOT issue guidance to women on where they can safely go.”

This was an intensely and passionately argued debate with a strongly gendered outcome

Kiki called for any police guidance to be issued to EVERYONE, not just to be directed at girls / women.  Doing so gives the impression of the police trying to control me, of the police talking down to women.  There should be equality in the way that women and men are treated.  The police should concentrate on making EVERYWHERE safe, instead of restricting the lives of women.

Ruby thought that direct police guidance from a uniformed officer is OK but unrequested advice from a man not in uniform is seen as dangerous.  Police advice should only be given if asked for, or if you need it.  Ruby did not like being told what she can and cannot do.  When girls get a sense of intimidation and fear it is hugely limiting and constraining.  It is not fair.  Girls should feel able to do things.  Men are far more at risk of being a victim of violent crime than are women.

Zachary agreed that the police should not FORCE advice on women, but also that the police should not have to wait until someone feels unsafe.  If the police think that there is a danger then they should offer the same advice to both men and women.  Simply giving advice to women can create an atmosphere that limits women.  He went on to argue that if women don’t follow police advice, and something bad happens to them, then that is their own fault.  Women should not ignore police instructions.  Some limits are needed to keep women safer.

This provoked an outraged response from the girls – UPROAR.  

Amelle said that unrequested advice should NOT be given.  The police should NOT impose their views on how women should behave.  The police should make it safe instead of issuing warnings to women.  It is the job of the police to make a place safe for everyone.  Any warnings should be directed at everyone, not just women.

Anna said that men and women should not be treated differently, advice should be given to everyone.  Corrupt police officers cannot be trusted.  The police advice offered is seen as patronising.  It is NOT a woman’s fault if she is a victim of crime after ignoring police advice.

Max asked what the girls were complaining about.  Police guidance is entirely well meaning and intended for the best.  Common sense is NOT sexist.  Max strongly argued that police advice is not a restriction, it is intended to reassure.

This provoked another outraged response from the girls – MORE UPROAR.  

Lara  thought that police advice that is given to women but not to men is sexist.  It is supposedly “well meaning” but is in fact patronising.

Pearl said that guidance SHOULD be given, but that it should be directed to everyone, NOT just girls / women.  She said that the fire (the threat, the perpetrators) should be given priority rather than the firewall (advice on safety).  Victim blaming is wrong and the problem needs to be addressed, which is that some MEN are the problem.  98% of women have been sexually harassed by a man, but only 1 in 6 men say that they have been sexually harassed.  Some men are toxic.  The police tend to be guilty of victim blaming and “gaslighting” (making others blame themselves by instilling doubt in them).  “Guidance” can appear to be a restriction on women’s freedom and simply another method of male control of female lives.  The Sarah Everard incident has damaged trust in the police.  Men should feel guilty for the actions of other men, and male attitudes in general need to change.  It goes right back to basic attitudes – there is no such thing as banter.  Men should call out other men who behave inappropriately.  Why should women have to be especially careful?

Oliver challenged this – the police have good motives and should issue appropriate safety guidance to relevant groups (such as women).  He then queried why, whenever men say something that a woman disagrees with, the man is accused of sexism?

Cue more uproar!

Dora agreed that specific places can be dangerous, but there should be a focus on the stopping the perpetrator, not on the potential victim.  Guidance should be given to everyone.  There should be a focus on catching offenders, NOT on limiting female freedom.

Nico said that guidance / advice is fine, but that it should not be issued exclusively to women.  If the police do their job then guidance should not be necessary.  He asked that before he got shut down / cancelled he should be allowed to say that it is important to realise that guidance is intended for good reasons.  He then tried to broaden the topic to the issue of toxic masculinity and patriarchal views.

Aoife pointed out that guidance is merely advice, it is not restraining – but then it merely adds to the fear that already exists.  Women restrict themselves through fear, because they consider themselves faced with higher stakes risks.

Elsa thought that guidance to aid safety is OK, but that the focus should be on stopping offenders / perpetrators.  Don’t say “shouldn’t go there” because this intimidates women and increases fear even more.  Punishments for sexual assault are far too low, as a society we seem to value property as being at least as important as people.  Men should not feel guilty for the actions of other men, but men SHOULD understand how women feel and respect their worries about a sense of intimidation and fear.


FOR (NO ADVICE SHOULD BE GIVEN)          6  (all girls)

AGAINST (police advice is fine)                      2  (all boys)

The consensus was that police advice could be issued, but NOT just to women.

Week 5: “The West should pay reparations (compensation/ damages) for slavery.”


Tuesday 13:45 K4

Alex argued that GB, as the biggest trader of slaves, should pay reparations, and that more generally, any colonial power who benefitted from slavery should pay reparations to the descendants of those who were taken / suffered. Slavery held back the economic development of Western Africa.  However, Alex recognised the problem of precisely WHO should pay and WHO should receive payments and that a lot of this happened a long time ago (nearly 200 years).

Oliver agreed that the UK Government should pay for the mistreatment of slaves.  However, reparations payments to individuals are questionable.  It would be better to focus on payments to a developing country.  After all, how far back can you go?  The reality is that the descendants of slaves are STILL economically disadvantaged, even today.  Why should slavery be compensated when other horrible crimes are not compensated?  Treating people badly is always wrong and has always happened.  Is restitution really possible?

Kitty recognised the problem of deciding what is owed to whom.  Who is to pay?  How much?  The West in general made a huge profit from slavery.  Perhaps there should be a donation to a charity dedicated to the economic development of affected countries.  GB needs to be selective in its use of taxpayer funds.  Kitty questioned whether GB can afford compensation, as distinct from heartfelt Commemoration.  If you go far enough back in history everyone is entitled to compensation – eg Saxon compensation for their treatment by the Normans?

Grace called for the creation of a charity for the descendants of slaves.

Mr Keddie pointed out that Germans DO pay compensation for the crimes of the Nazis.

Nico thought that money should be given to the governments of those countries that suffered under slavery.  However, most people had nothing to do with slavery.  Only a few are guilty.  There should be voluntary charitable donations which it is socially unacceptable to avoid paying, as people have a moral obligation to pay.  Present day racism is largely based on the experience of slavery.  History matters!

Pearl argued that money alone is not enough.  There should be education and economic development.  The amount is not as important as the symbolism of admitting guilt for the particularly terrible crime of the transatlantic slave trade.

Anand argued that there should be NO compensation to anyone ever.  Memorials are pointless.  The UN should decide.

Elsa called for practical assistance  rather than cash payments.  She particularly thought of the Commonwealth development fund.

VOTE: 7 for compensation and 2 against.


Lara said that there should be no payment unless you were directly involved (eg a descendant of slaves OR a descendant of those who directly benefitted from the slave trade.  Why should government taxes be used when many were NOT directly involved?  Personally, she was happy to pay, but she worried that compensation would arouse resentment and hostility from some who think that “charity begins at home”

Ruby argued that there must be a limit to how far back into the past we should go.  Compensation for Nazi atrocities?  How about compensation for Viking or Norman atrocities?  We must look to the future and ensure that there is no repetition.  There should not be payments to individuals, as it is impossible to decide who should get what.  However, GB  does have a moral duty to help develop disadvantaged countries.  Such money should only go to communities with stable, un-corrupt, governments or to Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

Anna pointed out that modern slavery continues to exist, for example child labour.  We should not forget the past, but it is impossible to agree on who should be compensated.  Instead we should focus on development – Housing; Health; Sanitation; Education.  We should all change our behaviour and use Ethical sourcing.  Some governments are corrupt and should not be given money (eg Haiti).  We should pay, but we should make sure that the money goes to those who really need it, possibly payment could be in the form of a voluntary donation, proportional to income.  Governments cannot be trusted, the money should be used to end modern slavery and encourage economic development.

Max opposed payments as the events were too long ago and it is unclear who should pay it or who should receive it.  Any payment should focus on need.  It is better to give money to an NGO like WaterAid rather than to a corrupt government.

Kiki thought that compensation SHOULD be paid to the descendants of slaves and that anti slavery rules should be enforced around the world.  However, money should only go to those individuals who can prove that their ancestors suffered from slavery and to those countries damaged by the slave trade.  Payments should NOT be legally binding but people should feel MORALLY obliged.  Payments could be a lump sum, or a % of income.

Adam thought that we should know what our taxes are paying for.  We should be able to choose what our money is used for.  However, he recognised that many would not want to pay.

Mr Keddie explained the concept of HYPOTHECATING taxes, so that the money can only be used for a specific purpose.

VOTE: 3 for compensation and 3 against.

Week 4 “This House thinks that COP 26 (UN climate change conference in Glasgow in November 2021) is far more important than the foreign policy tensions between the USA and China.”


Alex argued that COP 26 is far more important than foreign policy tensions between USA and China, who are only two countries.  COP 26 is about the future of the planet.  COP 26 NEEDS both USA and China.

Rory agreed that both China and the USA are essential for COP 26 to succeed.

Oliver pointed out that if USA and China refuse to cooperate than COP 26 will be a messy failure.  Some kind of temporary truce is needed to bypass foreign policy tensions.  The planet needs COP 26 to be meaningful, so every country, especially the more important ones, must be on board.  COP 26 needs to be conflict free.  Even if foreign policy tensions could be resolved by a referendum, or by excluding one country, it will still lead to conflict.

Elsa thought that climate change is MUCH the most important issue.  COP 26 is an opportunity for the planet.  Foreign policy tensions between USA and china must not be allowed to affect COP 26.  Without China COP26 is pointless.  All leaders must recognise the primacy of climate change over ALL other issues.  Other countries than USA and China are important and should not be ignored.  We need to act to save the poorer nations AND to act to focus on improving relations between the USA and China as the current tension does have the potential to derail COP 26.  The planet must be united in opposing climate change and must overcome differences between countries.

Nico argued that COP26 and the tensions between China and the USA are BOTH important.  To focus on COP26 instead of on foreign policy tensions runs the risk of war and makes meaningful cooperation impossible.

Katya agreed that foreign policy tensions and COP 26 are equally important.  Big countries need to sign up to climate change agreements if COP 26 is to succeed.  The focus needs to be on COP26, but success at COP26 will require cooperation between the USA and China.  Perhaps there should be a popular vote to bypass the conflict between governments?

Mr Keddie suggested that popular votes rarely succeeded in lowering tensions between countries.

Grace pointed out that COP 26 is the most important factor.  Tensions between two countries are merely local squabbles, much less important than the future of the planet.  She went on to argue that the USA could be ignored, and that China is more important.  She argued for parallel lines of dealing with climate change, and for parallel organisations, on the grounds that the USA and China are incapable of meaningful cooperation.  People (and countries) are fundamentally selfish and unwilling to cooperate with each other.

Lara argued that foreign policy tension needs to be addressed before we can all cooperate at COP 26.

Selina agreed that the tension has to be addressed first if COP 26 is to succeed.  A constructive process of cooperation and dialogue is needed.

VOTE:  The motion was passed by 6 votes to 5.  (The divided opinion reflects the uncertainty over the issue).

Week 3: “This House thinks that it is always a mistake to use military force to try to impose your values on others”.


Anand challenged the idea of universal values. He thought that a majority view CAN be imposed on others, although military force should always be the last option, only to be used if persuasion fails. Readiness to resort to force should be dependent on the extent of opposition to the values you are trying to impose. That said, during the Cold War both the USSR and the USA avoided direct use of military force by backing supporters in awful civil wars – “Proxy Wars”.

Emilio preferred the idea of funding domestic opponents of “wrong “ values rather than resorting to direct military force.

Alex opposed the concept of a single country taking on the moral responsibility of using force. Instead we should look for United Nations approval to legitimise the use of force. He criticised the USA as being too willing to use their military might. This made them, and their values, less popular. We should be willing to enforce values such as human Rights, and UN resolutions such as the “No fly” zone in Iraq which protected the Kurds.

Dora thought that it was morally wrong to use military force except in self defence. If your values really are “superior” then others will come to understand, adopt and accept them. It is still morally wrong, even if you are very strong and your opponent is very weak. Values cannot be imposed on others, you have to persuade. Use discussion and, if necessary, sanctions, but not military force.

Oliver felt that it is justified to use military force to help persecuted minorities. “Liberal Interventionism” IS justified. Simply funding protest groups won’t work. Government repression can only be stopped by force. The United Nations is not morally superior, indeed it is designed to make decision making very difficult, as China, Russia and the USA (and GB and France) all have a power of veto through the Security Council of the UN. The West should be willing to take military action where necessary in order to support liberal values.

Kitty agreed that it is right to use military force to support Western liberal values. The West must continue to be willing to take action in the face of repeated provocation in order to protect the innocent. There should be consequences for those who take action against Western values.

Nico thought that resorting to military force to impose your values is not always a mistake – he cited the example of World War II against the Nazis – but that it CAN be a mistake (as in Vietnam and in Afghanistan).

Mr Keddie pointed out that countries went to war against the Nazis in self-defence, not for moral reasons.

Grace thought that it is justified to take military action when talking, condemnation and sanctions have failed. She thought that any country, or person, should use military force if they think that it is justified.

VOTE : The motion was DEFEATED by 12 votes to 1. It appears that despite Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya people still feel that “Liberal Interventionism” is justifiable.


Ruby thought that it is OK to use military force to protect minorities and save lives. Perhaps the public of the intervening country should be asked to vote on whether to use military force? Ruby thought that acting in the national interest was a sufficient justification, that the approval of the UN is not necessary, and that fanatics cannot be persuaded to change their mind set and must be forced into doing so.

Vasilisa thought that major issues should get UN approval before force is used. She drew a distinction between the use of military force over domestic issued (within your country) and using force in other countries, internationally.

Anna felt that a lot depended on the size of the minority whose values are being crushed. She thought that domestic issues could rely on their own police and legal system but that international action should require the approval of others. Western efforts to impose “nation building” on Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq have failed. A lot depends on the size and strength of those you are trying to compel to accept your values. Resorting to force internationally is a mistake, both morally wrong AND unlikely to work in the long term.

Anna pointed out that a resort to military force can only ever be temporary. The failure to impose Western values meant that the Taliban only had to wait out the Western intervention. She thought that the US should not have stuck its nose into the domestic affairs of Afghanistan.

Pearl thought that “imposing your values” is a bad phrase. It is not realistic to hope to change values merely by persuasion. In order to “wipe out” cultural beliefs military force CAN be necessary, because we don’t live in an ideal world. UN approval is a good idea. But the UN is easily corrupted and can be obstructive. Of course the use of military force should always be proportionate, but the West must remain willing to ACT NOW!

Mr Keddie pointed out that values don’t necessarily have to be Western liberal values.

Lara said that military force must always be a last resort. Persuasion must be the first option, and a lot depended on what the oppressor is actually doing (linked to proportionality).

Violet pointed out that Hilary Clinton did NOT have the right to impose social value change on Afghanistan. Education, money, persuasion are all fine but military force is a mistake.

VOTE: The motion was defeated by 10 votes to 0. Clearly there is no questioning of Western liberal self belief, despite recent events!

Week 2 “This House believes that Extinction Rebellion (XR) activism is counter-productive.”


Douglas argued that Activism can be dangerous (although it tries at present to be peaceful protest) and that it alienates people, making them less supportive and sympathetic to the climate change cause. Activists should NOT cause chaos or disrupt the lives of ordinary people or waste police time. Blocking roads increases CO2 emissions. Activism CAN be effective simply following peaceful and lawful protest.

Dasha said that activism such as blocking the M25 doesn’t persuade other people of the merits of your argument. It is counter-productive. It would be better to take positive action.

Rory argued in favour of activism – it IS necessary to raise the profile of the climate change issue.

Alex agreed that activism successfully raises the profile of the climate change issue as far as the media are concerned. BUT extinction Rebellion (and Insulate Britain) are both only pressure groups with limited ability to bring about change, and their actions are actually damaging the climate.

Oliver thought that the actions taken were too far removed from the issue. The activism is harming ordinary people, such as those being prevented from attending hospital appointments or family events. A high media profile is not always a good thing if it for the wrong reasons. That said, small steps CAN be taken. Extinction Rebellion are developing a bad reputation as a group who are good at stopping people but who lack a real positive programme and who are in danger of alienating potential supporters.

Jacob agreed that activism is counter-productive because it would have a negative effect on ambulances and police cars. Although activists claim to let such vehicles through, they are still taking up huge amounts of police and court time. They should be aiming to persuade others, not simply compelling them. The best, and only legal, way to achieve change is through Parliament, backed up by non-violent, responsible, peaceful demonstrations. Causing inconvenience is ineffective and simply alienates others.

Mr Keddie pointed out that pressure groups and leaders such as the Suffragettes, Martin Luther King and Gandhi all took direct action to promote their cause.

Anand argued that Extinction Rebellion need a realistic and positive programme of action and goals, and that negative protest is not enough in itself.

Nico said that closing the M25 was NOT helpful to Extinction Rebellion as it simply caused delays, congestion and more pollution, alienating people. Instead there should be a focus on Government action, on initiatives in school, on positive “nudge” incentives to act in a socially responsible way to reduce climate change.

Farhan agreed that it would be much more effective to improve public transport and raise the congestion charge. These steps would do much more to help solve climate change than does sporadic irritation caused by activism.

Flora agreed about the danger of driving potential supporters away with unpopular activism.

Emily pointed out that Extinction Rebellion had achieved its aim of a high media profile and putting the climate change issue at the top of the political agenda.

VOTE: The motion was supported by 15 votes to 1. The type of activism being pursued IS seen as counter-productive.

Background and update: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTv-KxZXcL4


Elsa argued strongly in favour of activism, whilst recognising that it can be too extreme, and that it is NOT the only way forward. Activism is necessary to raise awareness of the issue. Extinction Rebellion aim to avoid damage to people or to property. Peaceful, non-violent action has always been the way to achieve change, as shown by Gandhi and SATYGRAHA. COP 26 promises are empty and too slow. Action must be taken NOW.

Pearl thought that Extinction Rebellion are right. They have to act because they are ignored. The Paris COP was inadequate, and COP 26 in Glasgow will not achieve anything unless Government is placed under pressure. People, especially White, Middle Aged, Conservative men, need to be “shaken awake” and shown what will happen unless urgent and immediate action is taken. The complacent majority need to b e confronted with the consequences of their current actions. Extinction Rebellion is not violent, and is acting on a crucial issue, so they are justified.

When challenged as to what right Extinction Rebellion had to disrupt the lives of others, her response was :“What right have you got to kill the planet?”

In contrast, Macsen argued that activism is counter-productive because it upsets and alienates instead of persuading. It worsens pollution. The goal of carbon neutrality by 2025 is unrealistic and unreasonable. The actions of Extinction Rebellion are NOT a successful way of persuading people.

Ruby thought that Activists are right to act if no one else will do anything. Government action on this issue is too little too late. A few activists need to be pathfinders, paving the way for a change of opinion.

Anna was left on the fence. On the one hand, blocking the M25 DOES cause pollution. On the other, Government action on climate change is inadequate and Government is only pretending to take action.

Ria also supported the activists, seeing them as doing the right moral thing. Ria agrees with the goals of the activists, but not with their methods.

Mr Keddie referred to the ongoing debate about whether the means used could ever be justified by the ends (goals) being aimed at.

Jun agrees with the activist ends / goal, but saw the means used as alienating a lot of people. Such methods will drive away moderate potential supporters, so that Extinction Rebellion will increasingly appeal only to extremists and fanatics. Jun questioned the right of these self appointed fanatics to dictate to / threaten others by their behaviour. People need to be persuaded, not forced. The consequence of activism has been that Extinction Rebellion has not achieved anything constructive.

Vasilisa disagreed, saying that the activist are justified. Such an important issue as climate change means that direct action IS justified.

Violet argued that radical action is necessary. A bit of an irritant (direct action) is needed to raise the profile of the issue and drive people into taking effective action to solve the problem.

Katya agreed with Greta Thunberg’s view that climate change is a crucial issue that MUST be solved NOW.

Bethany thought that “making a scene” works. It worked for the Suffragettes and for Greta Thunberg. Activism is necessary to drive change.

Elaf called for more effective Government action and guidance on the issue.

After a strenuous and passionate debate the vote was as follows:

VOTE: The motion was defeated by 8 votes to 5. The type of activism being pursued IS NOT seen as counter-productive. This outcome is the opposite of the vote on Tuesday and shows how strong speakers can swing the opinion of the audience.