De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has held its biggest international debate yet, right in the heart of Europe – Berlin.
The latest in the university’s Be The Change series of events – at which experts, students and members of the public debate policy issues to engage a new generation of voters in their future – took place today at the British Embassy in the German capital.
The event saw students join Sir Sebastian Wood, British Ambassador to Germany; a series of leading academic experts and international media for an hour-long discussion on the future of Britain, international relationships, higher education and more.
In the Embassy, on Wilhelmstrasse, Professor Dominic Shellard, Vice-Chancellor of DMU, took to the stage in front of more than 50 guests, joining a panel of experts, comprising of:
- Sir Sebastian Wood, British Ambassador to Germany
- Chris Goldsmith, senior lecturer in International Relations at DMU
- Melanie Fowler, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications at DMU
- Tony Payne, Co-Director of the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute
Opening the event, Sir Sebastian Wood said: “I hope Berlin makes a deep impression on you ll and I hope you will be inspired to come back.”
The panel then discussed the outcome of last week’s General Election, the engagement of young voters and the power they might have had in last year’s Brexit referendum, had they been equally engaged.
Students pitched questions and opinions to the panel as the discussion developed.
First year Dance student Paige Mitchell said she felt Theresa May’s plan to bring back fox hunting was a turning point in her voting intentions.
She said: “There are lots of animal rights activists in Leicester who felt this was a ridiculous move and it’s really sparked a lot of opposition to the Conservatives.
“Even though Labour lost, I feel we made our point.”
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Final year Physics student Jake Deeming said he felt Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity was comparable to US President Donald Trump.
He said: “Mr Corbyn offered the sun, sky, moon and sea in order to win young voters. And actually he was a lot like Donald Trump in the way he was anti-populist, offering something different.”
Tony Payne said he felt Theresa May herself was one of the reasons the Conservatives had not come out of the election with a majority.
He said: “A huge number of people were astonished with her throughout the campaign. As Home Secretary she had kept quite a low profile and people had not really seen just how wooden she was.”
Charlotte Arthur, a third year Nursing student, said she felt she understood why the Liberal Democrats had a disappointing result.
She said: “Young people were voting in this election and they remembered the U-turn on student fees so they didn’t want to vote for them and Labour picked up the alternative vote.”
At the end of the debate, Professor Shellard held a series of quick votes, posing questions and surveying hands for answers. The consensus suggested:
- An even split of opinion on whether another general election would be held in the 12 months
- That if an election was to be called, Labour would win
- That a second referendum was unlikely
- But that if a second one was possible, nearly everyone would want it
The event was part of the latest #DMUglobal overseas experience, bringing 800 students to Berlin where, across itinerary-packed days, students from nearly 35 courses are visiting businesses, organisations, museums and sites of historical importance, to illustrate and expand on classroom lessons while giving vital real-world experience.
The trip continues until Friday.
Posted on Wednesday 14th June 2017