The first debate of Freshers’ Week is always popular, but it was standing room only this time around thanks to the all-star cast of speakers, which included a columnist from the Sun, the deputy editor of the Scotsman, and STV’s broadcasting editor. The topic? Inspired by Prince Harry’s escapades in Vegas; whether This House should sell its scandals to the Sun.
Bill Leckie from the Sun began the proposition by defending the idea of scandals, suggesting they lead to a better free press, and argued that the House should sell its scandals to the Sun rather than another paper because “we do it properly.” Countering, Peter MacMohan of the Scotsman attempted to attack the Sun but fell flat when he claimed the Sun was at the heart of the culture of phone hacking – leaving himself open to an easy riposte about the News of the World from Leckie.
One of the best performances of the night came from Lauren Hepburn, an English Literature & Classics student who currently edits The Stand, whose witty support of the public’s indulgence in schadenfreude easily garnered the most laughter. Shaun Milne of STV launched a solemn and fact-filled broadside on the Sun’s reputation, but his speech – while likely the most accurate and containing the fewest cheap shots of the night – failed to capture the audience’s approval.
Third for the proposition was Casey Larsen, a third-year reading Philosophy who founded the St Andrews Institute think-tank, and third for the opposition was Alex Massie of The New Statesman, who suggested that the real problem was with newspapers’ embracing of “chequebook journalism” and who matched Lauren for clever remarks.
The proposition’s argument was overall more solid and clearer than the opposition’s, but despite this the motion fell, with 83 votes against to 62 for. (One suggestion: that St Andrews students simply don’t read the Sun.) A great start to this term’s debates.