‘You are shadowboxing a ghost’: Inside KCL Politics Society’s annual political debate

‘You’re just a teenage girl, what do you know about foreign affairs?’

KCL’s Politics Society’s annual political debate is never without its fireworks, and this year was no different. The panel for the evening was made up of KCL Conservative Association (KCLCA), KCL Liberal Democrats and KCL Labour and the agenda consisted of the economy, the climate crisis, education and housing, foreign affairs and immigration and constitutional reforms.

The debate swiftly commenced after a member of the audience shouted “Get on with it! Come on” following a 20 minute delay from the starting time, this member of the audience became quite vocal in their feelings about the debate throughout the night.

The opening remarks of the parties set the tone for the evening, with the KCLCA’s speaker saying that “the conservative party is the only party which is getting things right”, KCL Labour’s speaker firmly saying that “this time next year Keir Starmer will be prime minister” after “14 years of choosing between heating and eating” and KCL Liberal Democrats reaffirming themselves as the “boring” and “sensible” party.

The topics which received the most lively debates were in relation to education, foreign affairs and immigration, particularly between KCLCA and KCL Labour. During a discussion concerning education KCL Labour argued “Why do we have to pay £9,250 for our university fees? We have one of the lowest maintenance loans, loans not even grants, given to our students.” The speaker then turned to the audience and said “Am I right? You guys aren’t getting enough money are you? Your rent costs more than your student loan” which was met with a round of applause.

KCLCA sparked a dispute concerning “Labour’s focus on money again – money money money, give them money and that solves the problem!” after telling them not to “give lectures about taking things away”. With KCL Labour asking in return “Why should the prime minister of the country be the richest man? That’s not right!”. This heated discussion was broken up by the same audience member shouting loudly to “Have a bit of backbone!” when the official mediators failed to tone down the discourse.

When it came to the topic of foreign affairs and immigration, neither KCLCA nor KCL Labour were shying away from getting their point across. KCL Labour kicked off this round by declaring “My parents did not choose to come here and steal some jobs. This country is built off the hard working arses of immigrants.” KCLCA were quick to respond saying “let me make this quite clear, we are not anti-immigrants” but that the British people say “they want control over who comes here” and asks “is that really such an awful thing?”

KCL Liberal Democrats attempted to alleviate some of the tension between the two other parties by making sure it was said at least once over the course of the evening that “immigrants make our country richer.” They went on to say that “it’s not that they want to sit in a boat, travel a dangerous channel, fear death, no it’s because they don’t see any other option.”

However, KCLCA were keen to defend their position, finding “the rhetoric from the other side so jarring.” The KCLCA speaker said “My parents were immigrants, I’m an immigrant. My parents are doctors, I agree with you that most of the time our public services are built upon the work of English people but also non English people. There is no debate here, you are shadowboxing against a ghost.”

As the parties began to interrupt each other, there was a familiar shout above the crowd to “Let the man speak!” which broke up the muffle of noise.

The final Q&A question of the night sparked the most controversial comment of the debate. The last audience question asked the panellists how they felt about how their respective parties had addressed the ongoing events in Israel and Gaza. When it came to KCLCA’s turn to speak it was met with a considerable amount of audience criticism including “boo!” and “freak”, and it did not go unnoticed. The KCLCA speaker responded “I’m sorry but you’re a teenage girl, what do you know about foreign affairs?” which sent the audience into chaos. The Politics Society Events Officer intervened and asked for an apology from the KCLCA speaker which they did “unreservedly”.

This is not the first time KCLCA have come under fire for their unpopular comments and ideas within the student community. Last year they held the debate motion “This House Would Restore the British Empire” which was met with extensive backlash from the student body at King’s College London.

Despite this comment, the audience member polls at the end of the debate showed a tie between KCLCA and KCL Liberal Democrats.

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