7 politicians and over 600 students, what could go wrong? On Monday night Cardiff University Students’ Union hosted their biggest general election event so far, featuring high profile politicians from all the major parties, giving students a chance for their voice to be heard in this campaign.
In a rapid hour and a half, topics included LGBT equality, Welsh Language, student political engagement, student financial burdens and the anti-terror laws. Students made their reactions instantly clear on Twitter, with even a few memes being made. The biggest disappointment for me however was the lack of instant translation at a bilingual event in a week where students are voting in such a vital referendum.
Pictured: Dafydd Trystan, Plaid Cymru (Left) and Aled Roberts AM, Liberal Democrat
Liberal Democrat Aled Roberts AM and Plaid Cymru Chair Dafydd Trystan came out on top, making their points clear and concise, appealing to the audience and even adding some much needed humour into the pot. Aled Roberts soon appealed to the audience, with even this meme being made midway through the session:
Trystan emphasized the need for us to celebrate a festival of democracy on May the 7th, as it’s time to shake up Westminster and build a better future, by voting alternatively to the four shades of Westminster grey. Talking after the event, he stated it is a shame that climate change and the environment was not being discussed at greater lengths in this election campaign, stating that there has been a wish for a greener Wales for a generation, and we can always campaign for a greener Cardiff. He also said Leanne Wood was doing a fantastic job as leader of the party.
Wales Green Party leader emphasized the need for a sustainable country, being the only one referring to climate change and the environment in her closing statement. Talking later to Gair Rhydd, she later expressed concern about mainstream parties saying there wasn’t any money to stop austerity, showing figures that clamping down on tax avoidance and making the rich pay a little more tax would almost wave austerity away. Talking about climate change, she added that the main parties are covered in big private firms paying to get their way in laws such as fracking and fossil fuel subsidy. People are being deceived almost by the leaders of this country on climate change, and people need to take responsibility and vote for a party that can take it seriously, she adds.
The Trade Union and Socialists Coalition candidate was a new party for many to hear their points from, being clear that they are the only party that’s 100 per cent against austerity, including Plaid Cymru and the Greens in his analysis. Ross Saunders said that this election was a test for politics, stating politics has failed ordinary people, calling for a change in wealth distribution and the nationalisation of utilities and transport. He added after the debate that the only wasted vote there was, was a vote for a party you don’t believe in and agree with, and every vote against the austerity agenda will be effective.
Not being very popular with students, UKIP places next, jumping straight into emphasizing the party wants a tuition fee cut, and attacking the UK Government’s immigration policy as racist. Despite the closing statement receiving an awkward silence rather than enthusiastic applause, the UKIP candidate seemed happy with his performance at the end of the night.
On the bottom of the pile after the big debate, Labour and the Conservative representatives Owen Smith and Andrew RT Davies respectively. The audience was rarely impressed by them, and twitter even less so, being accused of acting like children by some, not answering the questions being asked giving a generic answer, irrelevant to students in some instances. Smith emphasized that Labour works for working people, and Davies suggesting students should work during their studies, saying hard work never hurt anybody. Even on the question of why politicians ignore young people, no direct answer was given by any candidate, with some suggesting if you want a change then you need to get more involved.
Pictured: Andrew RT Davies, Conservatives and Owen Smith, Labour
Later, Owen Smith said he enjoyed the debate very much, being great that students are certainly engaged in politics and this campaign. Labour’s objective is to secure a Labour majority, and there is still a while to go before the election, seems an odd thing to say with barely over a week to go. “No I don’t think it was stupid because I think it was indicative of our desire to say to people, if we are going to get rid of the Tory Government you need to vote Labour. Our values are I think the right values. Yes the SNP laterally have re-invented themselves as the party of the left but it was only a couple of months ago they were in favour of cutting corporation tax for the largest corporations in Scotland. They are jolly come lately when it comes to left wing politics just as Plaid are in our country. We’ve got to be clear, if you want Labour left wing progressive politics you vote Labour in Scotland and elsewhere, that’s a very clear message.”
Independent candidate for Cardiff Central, who was not invited to be represented, commented “There are other candidates from constituencies OTHER than the one indicated all across the curtain behind you, i.e. Cardiff Central, but only ONE of the Candidates from Cardiff Central is not represented on stage. The Independent Candidate, and there is not ONE of the policies mentioned here tonight which couldn’t be fought for just as well by any independent. That candidate has pledged to serve his constituency voluntarily and donate his salary to a worthy cause or charity. Do any of you know whether or not any of YOUR candidates for Cardiff Central love THESE constituents enough to serve them as their representative without MP pay?”