“Nothing special”: Union termcard fails to impress

Olly Hudson 20 April 2015

The Cambridge Union has this morning released its termcard, featuring a distinct lack of high-profile names.

Among the limited number of recognisable names are Lord Leveson, who chaired the 2011–12 inquiry into press standards, actress Rebecca Front of The Thick of It fame, and former Labour Home Secretary, David Blunkett.

The first debate of term will consider the motion, “This house blames the West for Islamic extremism”, featuring co-founder of the Henry Jackson Society, Dr Alan Mendoza and UN Women’s ambassador in Iraq, Frances Guy.

Other motions include, “This house regrets monogamy”, “This house believes we need the richest 1%” and an election-night debate on the motion, “This house wouldn’t vote because they’re all tossers anyway”, which will once again see the Cambridge Footlights take on the Oxford Revue.

The Union will also play host to an ‘Election Night Party’ in the main chamber on 7 May.

Week two debate, “This house believes in the unconditional right to offend” sees a return of the ‘no-platforming’ debate that has become a dominant feature of student politics this year. The Union has itself recently attracted criticism for its decision to invite a number of highly controversial speakers.

Reverend Canon Giles Fraser will be making a return to the Union to propose the motion, “This house regrets organised religion”, having also proposed the similar motion, “This house would disestablish the Church of England” in Lent term.

Peterhouse first-year Julian Sutcliffe commented: “It says a lot about the establishment that they’ve got two debates on established religion in two terms. With the Church of England notoriously Cambridge educated, it’s no wonder they invited them.”

The Union has announced its final bicentenary debate, the culmination of the celebrations to take place on 26 September in Middle Temple Hall, London. The debate will be centred on the theme of the European Union, with the exact wording of the motion yet to be confirmed.

Speakers this term include British singer-songwriter, Craig David, ex-First Minister of Scotland, Lord McConnell, and Downton Abbey’s Elizabeth McGovern.

Easter President, Christof Epaminondas said: “This term, we continue our bicentenary celebrations with an array of inspirational, thought-provoking and entertaining speakers, which we hope will continue to foster the debate and free speech that the Union has so proudly upheld for the past 200 years.”

Reaction among students to this term's line-up has been, at best, mixed. One second-year at St John’s told The Cambridge Student: “It’s okay, nothing special. It’s sad that they couldn’t do more for their bicentennial year.”

Another commented: “I felt that the election debate looked like a joke that fell flat.”

This term’s line-up also is one of the more diverse in the Union’s recent history, featuring a total of 21 female speakers and 12 BME speakers, some 36% and 21% of the total number.

Last term’s termcard launch got off to an awkward start after star-name, Buzz Aldrin pulled out for the second time after a preview of the line-up was circulated among the press.