A Good Start to the Debating Season

TBSHS Debating Team go through to Round 2 of the ESU MACE

Date published: Tue 3 Dec 2019   Author: HLH/ADF   Category: News   Share: Share on facebookShare on TwitterShare on MySpaceShare by Email


The first inter-school debating occasion in the academic year is always Round 1 of the ESU Mace, one of the oldest and most prestigious competitions of its kind. This year TBSHS debaters had to travel to Colchester County High School for Girls, to propose the motion “This House Would Make Voting Compulsory”. This was the first debate of two on the night, with the two best teams, regardless of which debate they took part in, to go through to the second round.

Opening the debate Boyd Dunster (Year 13) made an excellent job of outlining the Proposition case, starting by limiting the terms of the motion to parliamentary, county council and referendum votes in the UK (“Unlike the Russians we don’t believe in interfering in other countries’ elections”). Boyd then explained why the current turnout of under 70% poses a threat to democracy in this country, especially as there are some groups, such as young people and the disadvantaged, who are the most likely not to vote. He went on to demonstrate why compulsory voting, with a “None of the above” option on the ballot paper, offered the most effective and immediate remedy to the problem and ended strongly by laying out what the Opposition would have to do in order to defeat the motion. The first speaker for our hosts read a well-prepared speech, in which she warned that the motion would lead to increased numbers of ‘donkey votes’, where candidates back random candidates or choose the name at the top of the ballot paper without any political knowledge or thought for their actions. In addition, she criticised the ‘first past the post’ system and idea of fining people who were on the breadline for not voting.

Replying for the Proposition, Scott Lockie (Year 13) gave a well-structured speech, managing to combine rebuttal of the previous speaker’s arguments with a consideration of the moral aspects of the motion. He pointed out that in Australia the fine is only the equivalent of about £10 and the percentage of the electorate voting is well over 90%, before explaining why voting should be regarded as a civic duty similar to paying taxes, jury service and taking part in the census. Scott then argued passionately that failure to vote lets down those who fought for universal suffrage in this country or are still fighting for it abroad. The second Opposition speaker countered by saying that voting is a right, not a duty, without giving reasons. She also mentioned the government costs and the complexities of implementing the motion, pointing out that the population of the UK is a great deal larger than that of Australia.

TBSHS Speakers

In a slight change to the rules this year, a team can opt for a third speaker to deliver the summary speech. So, after very few contributions from the floor (any audience member connected to a team is not allowed to speak in their debate), the third Colchester speaker took on this difficult task. Her speech consisted mainly of repeating the points already made and did little damage to our case. Christian Stimpson (Year 13) then wrapped up proceedings with a well-ordered overview of the debate as a whole, referencing Boyd & Scott’s strongest points and explaining why he felt that his team’s arguments had won the day. He also managed some effective rebuttal, for instance suggesting that There’s an easy way to avoid paying the fine, just turn up to vote”.

All our speakers admitted that they were glad not to have been given the second motion “This House Would Limit Each Person To One Return Flight Per Year”, which was proposed by Chelmsford County High School, like our hosts an extremely high-attaining girls’ grammar school, and opposed by Freman College from Buntingford. The latter fielded a very young team, all making their competitive debut. Inevitably the Proposition made much of the need to take drastic measures to reduce carbon emissions, and the availability of holidays that did not involve flying. The Opposition’s objections focussed on the unfairness of limiting emergency flights, the need for international sportsmen to fly around the world and the potential damage to the UK economy, especially if the measures proposed were not adopted by other countries. The latter argument was weakened by the Proposition’s cunning definition of the motion to cover leisure flights only, a point which they could have made more clearly. Each side’s first speaker was their strongest, with Chelmsford’s also producing a very convincing summary speech. The audience contribution this time was much better, due mainly to contributions from TBSHS representatives (supporters are not allowed to speak in their own school’s debate).

Getting Feedback

The judges’ decision, when it came, contained no great surprises, with TBSHS and Chelmsford County High School progressing to Round 2, which will be held in January. It was generally agreed that our team had been the strongest team of the night and they certainly had the edge over the others in terms of Expression & Delivery, establishing good contact with audience because they were not reading their speeches. Boyd, Scott and Christian worked very well as a team, sharing out the strongest arguments and backing each other up convincingly. I was particularly pleased that the structure of their speeches was made extremely clear, as this has not always been the case with TBSHS teams in the past. Overall, I felt that this was the best TBSHS team performance at this stage of the competition for a number of years.

It was equally gratifying that half a dozen Sixth Formers gave up six hours of their time at a busy time of the year to come and support our speakers, with one of them even cutting short a Maths trip to Cambridge earlier in the day to do so. The Head Teacher of another school was so impressed by the performance of our speakers and the friendliness shown towards her pupils by all our students that she emailed Mr Reeve to sing their praises. Thanks are therefore due to Alfie Aylett, Will Clayden-Smith, Hannah Fitzgerald, Aisha Jones, Caroline O’Prey and Nick Parker, as well as our Minibus driver Mr Pearson-Phillips.


Team and Supporters