5 Feb 2015

The irony of the University of Essex challenging convention since 1964

Pictured below is the panel - all-white, all-male, almost all middle-aged and almost all in suits, shirts and ties - at the University of Essex political discussion event “Coalition: Devil's pact or dream match? The General Election - what now?” on Wednesday evening, 4 February 2015.

The backdrop was a photo of a young black woman in ethnic dress under the banner slogan, “Challenging convention since 1964” – the year the University was founded.

University of Essex political panel
The panel was (left to right): Prof Anthony King, Prof Robin Blackburn, Prof Todd Landman in the chair, Rt Hon Bernard Jenkin, MP, and YouGov researcher, Joe Greenwood PhD.

A central topic was why so many people don't feel represented by politicians and don’t bother to vote. Bernard Jenkin MP said this was due to the way politicians have failed to honour their promises. Both his examples were about immigration, one being the 10,000 foreign criminals still in British jails despite Tony Blair's promise to do something about it (deport them, I suppose).

In my view, however, there are more important reasons why people don't feel represented - like how they see politicians representing the 1% more than the 99% and elections almost always being won by the party with the most money.

So I asked the question, “Who are you representative of?” – meaning the panel, the politicians and the parties, but especially the panel. It was so blatantly a group of the most privileged in society that no-one could really answer, but only express regret. Bernard Jenkin MP went so far as to say that he wants positive action for women and quotas in the Tory process for selecting Parliamentary candidates. 

He also said “I am not a racist” in response to my question about how his speech focussed on immigration. That is what Ukippers generally say too.

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