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The Socratic Club - 14th November

The Socratic club for this week focussed on two news subjects, the COP26 climate change conference and whether MPs should be allowed to have second jobs. The second topic followed the report into lobbying and the then resignation of Owen Paterson and questions on the working arrangements for MPs. We began the session with a skill of the week: POIs, or Points of Information. We discussed what they are, when to use them, and above all, how to use them to best impact a debate.

Junior Socratic Club The Motion, ‘This House believes that Politicians/World Leaders are taking Climate Action Seriously'. Vote 1 – Y: 17%; N: 83% Vote 2 – Y: 33%; N: 67% From Private Jets and the absence of China's leader, to 'blah blah blah' - the group covered the ground extremely well. There was widespread disdain for the efforts of politicians to make a difference. Many focussed on the continuing use and secondary waste of plastic, whilst other felt that if leaders were taking Climate action seriously, it would not need two weeks to do so. On the other hand, others in the group felt that the very meeting itself highlighted the serious nature in which politicians were approaching the subject and that significant steps had been taken, particularly in the direction of travel on fossil fuels and renewable energy. Electric cars and 'electric' options were also highlighted as proof of action. In the end, the motion was rejected, but the margin narrowed in the second telling. Our second debate, focussed on MPs and second jobs. Debate 1 so dominated the attention of the group that we had less time to delve into this topic, but it still produced a very good round-table discussion. The Motion, 'Should MPs be allowed to do a second job?' Vote 1 – Y: 33%; N: 67% Vote 2 – Y: 50%; N: 50% At first the group was inclined to consider the role a full-time one with little exception, but this was reconsidered as the conversation went on, with many arguing that having another role gave MPs greater experience, whether as lawyers, doctors or teachers for examples. Senior Socratic Club As with the Junior group, our focus began on POIs, but also on types of evidence. We discussed whether newspapers were reliable sources, and whether information production has become more reliable than in earlier time periods. Again we turned to a question on COP26: The Motion, 'This House believes that Politicians/World Leaders are taking Climate Action Seriously'. Vote 1 – Y: 29%; N: 71% Vote 2 – Y: 29%; N: 71% Just as the morning debate had savaged a lack of political willpower and effort to make major progress, so too it was felt that it was easy to pass judgement without considering just how complicated the topic is and the nature of the changes required. Telling people to change their way of life is not a) straightforward; and b) exceptionally challenging to implement. There was more sympathy for the complexity of the task at hand, but little for what was seen as a hypocritical lifestyle of jets and private yachts for billionaires flying into the conference to make speeches. Again the motion was rejected by a significant margin. For this debate we had both sides prepare as the opposition and then chose at the last minute one side to attempt the proposition arguments. It was fascinating and very impressive to see how well the group tackled thinking on the spot; and how they benefited from knowledge of 'what the other side were likely to say'. We then turned to MPs, consultancy and second jobs. The Motion, 'Should MPs be allowed to do a second job?' Vote 1 – Y: 43%; N: 57% Vote 2 – Y: 71%; N: 29% Here a significant opposition vote was overturned with some high class proposition argumentation, pitching firmly on the question of experience and the fear that the end of this push, might result in an exceptionally stale parliament, full of career politicians with little life knowledge of the wider world and job market. If politicians are set to represent us, then it was argued that they should be from all the different job market communities. Again, it was clear that active listening was taking place and many of the speakers made points that persuaded others to change side, particularly in this second debate. We also focussed on listing arguments in point form - this was most compelling when done in a summary speech. The day saw some tremendous debating skills and we were very impressed throughout. We much look forward to the next debates on Sunday 28 November, at the 4pm Speaker session and joint meeting of the Club.

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