The England Grand final of the John Smith Memorial Mace took place yesterday in the Assembly Hall at Church House, Westminster.
On Saturday, 52 teams from higher education institutions across the country came together for four rounds of impromptu debates, followed by a further round of debating and the semi finals on Sunday. The competitors then travelled from Dartmouth House, the international Headquarters of the ESU, to Church House where ESU members, alumni and members of the public joined them for a Public Forum on press regulation.
Chaired by Christ Blackhurst, editor of The Independent, the panel, made up of Chris Bryant MP (Shadow Minister for Immigration), Professor Natalie Fenton (Department of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths College), Jason Cowley (Editor of The New Statesman) and Joan Smith (Author and Phone Hacking Victim) spoke compellingly of their own experiences in light of the Leveson Inquiry. Speeches and questions from the audience widened the discussion, resulting in a lively and interesting debate.
The Public Forum was part of this year's Parliament Week, a national initiative by the House of Commons and the House of Lords to raise awareness about democracy and democratic institutions.
Following the conclusion of the forum, the ESU's Alex Just announced the teams who were progressing from the semi-finals to the Grand Final debate.
In Opening Government: Kaplan A - Stuart Cribb & Charlotte Thomas
In Opening Opposition: University of London Union A - Pam Cohn & Catherine Murphy
In Closing Government: Oxford Union B - Matt Handley & Tash Rachman
In Closing Opposition: Oxford Union A - Clive Eley & Nat Ware
The motion for the final was This House Believes that the Press Cannot Be Trusted to Regulate Themselves.
The Rt. Hon. Lord Hunt of the Wirral PC, MBE chaired the judging panel for this year's Grand Final. Lord Hunt is a long-standing friend of the ESU, being both a previous winner of the John Smith Memorial Mace and former ESU Chairman. He is also the Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, leaving him particularly appropriate to judge this competition. Lord Hunt was joined on the adjudication panel by speakers from the Public Forum: Chris Blackhurst, Professor Natalie Fenton, Jason Cowley and Chris Bryant; along with the Chief Adjudicators of this year's John Smith Memorial Mace, Maria English and Richard Robinson, and Janine Ryan from the ESU's Speech & Debate department.
Following a lively and stimulating debate, the panel retired whilst competitors fielded questions from the audience, including from students from the many schools who had attended this year's event.
In his remarks, Lord Hunt praised the depth and breadth of the speakers' arguments, as well as their clarity and style. Finally, he announced that after a long deliberation the judges had decided that the winners were the team in Opening Government, Kaplan Law, made up of Stuart Cribb and Charlotte Thomas. The winners were presented with the English National Championship trophy, along with a cheque for £500 to be shared between the institution and speakers.
Richard Barry, from the competition's sponsors Baillie Gifford, then presented a further prize to the winning team and to Ben Woolgar, the speaker who, throughout the course of the competition, was deemed the best speaker.
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