Calls for City Council to stand up more to Cambridge University in King’s ‘Question Time’ debate

Seb Day 18 May 2014

At King’s Politics Society Question Time on Friday night City Council candidates called for the council to stand up more to Cambridge University, with one candidate publicly calling for the university to pay all staff the living wage.  

Candidates included Rod Cantrill of the Liberal Democrats, Sam Wolfe of the Labour party, Nick Clarke representing the Conservatives and Matt Hodgkinson of the Green party, as well as an independent candidate, Antony Carpen.

All candidates agreed that there was not enough discussion between the university and the city council. Clarke raised concerns that the costs of rent imposed by the university are stifling local businesses, while the Labour candidate believed the university’s many sports facilities could be opened up to the public.

The Liberal Democrat candidate claimed that the university appeared to have two sides. The first is that of an educational institution, and the second that of a business, seeking wealth. He finished by saying that the council must stand up to the university more and be firmer, noting that the university should be persuaded to pay the living wage to all staff.

Carpen, the independent candidate who stood with Puffles, a stuffed toy dragon with fairy wings, made it clear on Friday that he did not wish to be elected and was instead advocating a greater interaction between the younger generations and the local candidates through social media. He criticised the lack of integration between the university and the city council, claiming, “I know what it’s like to be discriminated against by the university”. He commended the Cambridge Hub for mixing their campaigns with local ones.

The evening also saw controversial claims on environmental issues made by Conservative candidate Nick Clarke. In response to a question on fracking he stated that he did not believe we should be trying to prevent climate change, but should instead focus on adapting to it. “It’s not all about feeling warm and cuddly”, he claimed, “it’s about dealing with the real issue”. Following laughs from the audience, he complained that “anybody who speaks out against climate change is shot down.” The other candidates agreed that they would oppose fracking if it were to ever become relevant to Cambridge.

Andrew Lawrence, the director of communications for King’s politics society, told The Cambridge Student: “It was really positive to see so many students engaged directly with the local candidates”, adding that, “there was clearly a lot of anger on the part of the students at being misrepresented and let down by false promises”.