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First Tuesday current affairs discussion - Tuesday 8 January 7:00pm start

Tuesday 8th January: First Tuesday Current Affairs discussion

We'll discuss the stories breaking in 2019, introduced by Simon Belt

Public discussions and debate in Manchester
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Recent Discussions

Selection in education

From Grammar schools to assaults on academic freedom:
what is the future of education?

October 2016

Dr Joanna Williams opened a discussion on how to defend academic freedom today, chaired by Pauline Hadaway


Theresa May wants to bring back grammar schools and the 11-plus. Universities are being squeezed between the state and the student consumer. The Prevent scheme, aimed at tackling radicalisation in schools and HE, threatens academic freedom and teacher autonomy. What is the future of education?


Education is once again in the front line of 'bring-backery'. Theresa May's plan to bring back grammar schools has struck horror into an educational establishment which has struggled for more than half a century to abolish the 11-plus exam. Whatever next? Rote-learning, blackboards and chalk, gowns and mortar boards, the cane and the strap? Tony Blair declared education the top three priorities for New Labour and targets, league tables and parental choice came to dominate the world of teaching.

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Recent Discussions

BREXIT: is it time to exit the EU?

BREXIT: is it time to exit the EU?

June 2016

Edwina Currie (IN), Chris Bickerton (OUT) and Wendy Olsen (IN) opened a discussion on the EU referendum

Our most important vote for a generation is set for 23rd June 2016 - on whether the UK should Leave or Remain in the EU. There doesn't seem to be any particular Party divide on the issue with prominent personalities from all parties split over the issue. This referendum on sovereignty poses the issue of political principles more than any recent general election.

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Recent Discussions

Transgression in sex and relationships

Transgressions in sex and relationships

Monday 7th March 2016, 6:45pm start

Chrissie Daz, Rosie Garland and Luke Gittos explored our interest in transgressing sex and relationships, chaired by Pauline Hadaway


There's currently something reminiscent of the heyday of the promiscuous and 'let it all hang out' 1960's, whilst paradoxically transgressions of this new 'openness' are being given short shrift by a shrill intolerance towards yesterday's norms. From same sex marriage being enacted with muted opposition, to Christian bakers facing prosecution for refusing to make pro gay-marriage cake, is intolerance is proving the hallmark of this 'liberal' era?

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Recent Discussions

Welcome to the Drone Age?

October 2015

Andy Miah, Anna Frew and James Woudhuysen introduced a discussion on the ethics of drone flight


Andy Miah

Commercial drone use has dramatically expanded in recent years, with an increasingly inventive set of uses. Drones have been deployed in fields as diverse as aerial photography and humanitarian relief whilst retailers in Japan have even started to use them to deliver products (Amazon’s much-vaunted Prime Air is still in prototype testing). While much attention has been focused on their military functions and use by law enforcement – Indian police have purchased ones which could be used to pepper spray protestors – yet their increasing affordability and commercial ubiquity poses numerous problems for regulators. Dutch feminist campaigners were able to fly abortion pills into Poland to circumvent its restrictions on reproductive healthcare, whilst there are increasing numbers of injuries created by their use: the singer Enrique Inglesias was one high profile casualty, with a drone nearly severing his fingers on stage. There have already been several near-misses with passenger aircraft.


Anna FrewWhile new technologies are often praised by their ‘disruptive’ qualities, law-makers have had to act swiftly to regulate their civilian use. Yet, as with the development of the driverless car, there are also profound questions about how drones alters human relationships with technology. The use of drones in Chinese schools to prevent students cheating in exams is merely the latest example of the ethical questions raised by rapidly advancing surveillance techniques. Moreover, increased automation through smarts systems and advanced robotics in the ‘second machine age’ raises serious economic challenges, with the delivery and freight sectors only among the most visible jobs threatened by the use of drone technology. Yet others remain more skeptical about drones’ large scale commercial capabilities, as well as Western societies’ willingness to adapt to their needs.

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Recent Discussions

Will Devo-Manc help strengthen or fragment UK politics?

April 2015

Devo-Manc fragmenting UK politics?

Jonathan Schofield and Michael Taylor discussed Devo-Manc and whether it will help strengthen or fragment UK politics, chaired by Niall Crowley


In the autumn of 2014, Scottish voters very nearly heralded the biggest constitutional change in the way the UK is organised. On the back of that independence campaign, and ahead of the General Election, George Osborne signed a deal with the overwhelmingly Labour administration in Greater Manchester for substantial devolution of powers over government spending in the region.


Jonathan SchofieldThe deal for Devo-Manc has been heralded as a revolutionary moment for voters in Greater Manchester, and one that will lead to wider devolution of budgetary powers in the region. There was no widespread campaign for Devo-Manc by the electorate, no marches demanding it and no election to give a mandate for the deal, so where is the impulse for devolution coming from? Is this a civil service led empowerment programme or a backroom deal to centralise powers - after all it is Whitehall that decides who gets devolved powers (Manchester does) and who doesn't (Liverpool doesn't).

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Recent Discussions

Writers and war: reflecting or shaping our perceptions?

October 2014

Shirley Dent, Jonathan Ali, John Greening and Jane Potter introduced a discussion on how literature shapes our perceptions of war, chaired by Rania Hafez


Shirley Dent

Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori. Whether schooled in the classics or not, this is the one line of Latin that most of us can probably recall from our school days and our introduction to war poetry through Wilfred Owen’s visceral and haunting lyrics. Next to Owen’s young soldiers bent double like old hags towing a gas-ravaged corpse we may have been asked to compare Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier, read by the Dean of St Paul’s at Easter 1915. The poem’s gold-tinted, almost giddy, expostulation to the concealed dust in some corner of a foreign field that is forever England seems as jingoistic and sentimental as Owen’s lines are tormented and disillusioned.

Jonathan Ali


It is the later poets of the First World War – notably Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen – who set the timbre and tone for not just the poetry that came out of the trenches but for a genre of poetry, literature and art that deals with the subject of war. Following the trenches, gone is the sentimental glorification of sacrifice for country, replaced with the savagery and senselessness of war. If the First World War was ‘the war to end all wars’ First World War poetry is ‘the poetry to define all wars’.

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