THE VETERANS DEBATE


Over the course of 8 weeks Students from Newcastle University Debating Society taught a team of eight veterans the basics techniques and rules of British Parliamentory debate.


Because of the style's origins in British parliamentary procedure, the two sides are called the Government (more commonly called "Proposition" in the United Kingdom) and Opposition. The speakers are similarly titled:

1. Opening Government (first faction):

1. Prime Minister
2. Deputy Prime Minister

2. Opening Opposition (second faction):

1. Leader of the Opposition
2. Deputy Leader of the Opposition

3. Closing Government (third faction):

1. Member for the Government
2. Government Whip

4. Closing Opposition (fourth faction):

1. Member for the Opposition
2. Opposition Whip

Speaking alternates between the two sides and the order of the debate is therefore:

1. Prime Minister
2. Leader of the Opposition
3. Deputy Prime Minister
4. Deputy Leader of the Opposition
5. Member for the Government
6. Member for the Opposition
7. Government Whip
8. Opposition Whip

The aim of the programme was to give Veterans a better understanding of the democratic process whilst improving skills for employment. 

“Effective communication helps us better understand a person or situation and enables us to resolve differences, build trust and respect, and create environments where creative ideas, problem solving, affection, and caring can flourish. As simple as communication seems, much of what we try to communicate to others and what others try to communicate to us gets misunderstood, which can cause conflict and frustration in personal and professional relationships. By learning the basics of effective communication skills, it is our belief that Veterans will be able to better connect with their families, friends, and co-workers.”


On the 26th April 2013 four Veterans and four students took to the floor to debate:

“This house would abolish the guiding principles of the Geneva Convention when dealing with Terrorist Organisations in Combat”

The Debate was Chaired by Dave Anderson MP and Judged by BBC Politics Correspondent Richard Moss. Wayne Bell acting as Prime Minister took the moral high ground by making a passionate speech based on personal experience from the dizzy heights of the library balcony! He was followed by Georgia Cook who made a compelling speech on behalf of the opposition. Peter Style then took to the floor with a well thought out speech and made a robust case for the proposition.

Dave Armstrong came back with an inspired speech against the proposition based on 22 years active service in the British Army and enthralled the crowd when he related his personal experiences of conflict in The Aden Emergency and Northern Ireland and the long term benefit of adopting a ‘Hearts and Minds’ approach to military operations.

John Roberts took to the podium to argue that Terrorists had no right to the protection of the Geneva Convention and as far as he was concerned the Rules of Engagement should be changed to reflect this stance! Tony Wright Founder of Forward Assist & About Turn made the point that “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” and that the long term impact of combat with no rules could result in regret, guilt,shame and possibly Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in later life.

The motion was opened up to ‘Questions from the Floor’ and a fascinating discussion took place as many of the audience had themselves served at some point in the past. Cllr Gary Cook argued that it was essential that the Geneva Convention remained as a guiding principle of war for without it all combat operations had the potential to descend into ‘Take No Prisoners’ or ‘Shoot to Kill’ operations and in the long term these tactics caused more problems than solutions.  

The debate was rounded up by two excellent performances by Jack Burton and Paul Frew both seasoned debaters from The Newcastle University Debating Society and course tutors. 


However the winning partnership of the evening turned out to be Wayne Bell and Peter Style who are pictured above working hard on their proposition prior to the event. The Judges said;

“It was clear that the winning team had researched and prepared for the debate and both argued passionately and eloquently for their proposition”

Many Thanks go to ‘Blu Sky Accountants’ for sponsoring the event and making this innovative project possible.

Special Thanks to Dave Anderson MP, Richard Moss & Daniel Wood.

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