On Thursday, students from across the UK travelled to Westminster for the ASI’s Independent Seminar on the Open Society. Sir Malcolm Rifkind opened the seminar, discussing the UK’s relationship with the EU and convincingly arguing that the UK’s approach to European integration should be flexible and based upon our national interest. Following this was Brendan O’Neill, who certainly surprised quite a few in the room with his condemnation of moralising environmentalists. Rejecting of their policies of wearing thermals and limiting water use, he argued that climate change is best tackled through the use of large-scale geo-engineering projects.
After the break, the ASI’s own Madsen Pirie forecast a view of Britain after the next election. Drawing on inspiration from public services in Sweden, he considered the likely education and welfare policies that will be pursued in the next parliament. Our final speaker was the ever-exuberant Lembit Opik, who gave a well-received speech about the need for politicians to act with humility, courage and inspiration.
Following lunch, ISOS hosted its first ever debate, considering the motion “This house would prefer to be led by the invisible hand” On the proposition were Rushabh Ravanat, a debater from LSE and James Drey, president of the Oxford Union. Chris Harman, editor of International Socialism and David Ransom, previous co-editor of the New Internationalist opposed the motion. The proceedings were chaired by Peter Barton from Debate Mate. Each side was lively, impassioned and strongly argued their case, while the questions and statements from the floor were excellent and provoked further retaliation between the two sides. However, (and luckily for the ASI!) at the end of the day the motion was carried with an increased majority.
With positive feedback flowing in, the seminar was a great success. However, this would have not been possible without the involvement of the students and the high quality of questions asked, as well the sterling performances given by our speakers and debaters. We would also like to warmly thank The Spectator, Prospect, Private Eye and Total Politics, who very kindly provided magazines for the students.