After the controversy of the last UDS public debate, a change of tone to something more lighthearted was exactly what was needed. While humour is always a fixture of UDS public debates, this one was less like a debate with added comedic elements, and more a comedy show built around a debate. This was abundantly clear from the start of the debate, which say what must have been the longest uninterrupted attempt at reading the minutes of the last debate in recent UDS history. However, since the reading was conducted in parseltonugue, it provided little in the way of enlightenment as to how the last debate had gone, and merely consisted of Clerk to the House Caitlin Sutherland hissing at the audience.
Another fairly striking difference between this and other public debates was the lack of interplay between the two sides, with points of information being met not with rebuttal, but with the flourishing of toy wands, cries of “Silencio!“, and, at one point, Proposition member Charlie Blake tearing a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone into pieces, to audible noises of horror from some of the room’s more avid Potterheads. The only identifiable point of contention came from Mr Blake’s argument that since only half a billion people have read Harry Potter, the remaining 6.5 billion do not understand Voldemort, making him, by definition, misunderstood.
Hannah Lieberman, speaking for the proposition (and wearing what appeared to be a pink rabbit onesie with stars and stripes across the front) responded with the reasonable point that since Voldemort is evil, anyone who has encountered slow WiFi is totally aware of his nature.
Aside from this high-powered intellectual clash, the Comedy Society members who made up the speakers for the debate focused mainly on portraying funny characters for the benefit of the audience. Hence, the proposition was opened by Madeleine Inskeep’s pitch-perfect portrayal of the real villain of the Harry Potter series, Dolores Umbridge, who bemoaned the description of Voldemort’s followers as Death Eaters, and closed by Ed, who said that no matter what Voldemort had done, Hogwartsians probably deserved it for being a bunch of elitist tossers (a line which went down surprisingly well in St Andrews).
The opposition, meanwhile, composed of Miss Lieberman, Tom Caruth (aka magical lawyer Randalph Flickson), and Valentine Moscovi (aka former death-eater Orangina Syphilis), ignored the obvious lines of attack against Voldemort on the grounds of his being a genocidal maniac, and instead focused on less obvious, but equally important issues- from his criminal negligence (“Nobody needs seven attempts to kill a child”), to his failure to pay corporation tax, to the fact his middle name in the French translation of Harry Potter is “Elvis”, to the fact that he helped contribute to a situation that made a relationship between Ron and Hermione possible. Perhaps unsurprisingly when faced with such a forensic persecution of The Dark Lord, the audience finally voted in favour of exonerating him by a margin of 55-33, with only two in abstention.
As always, special mention must also go to the floor speeches from the audience, which consisted of an equally flamboyant cast of characters – from Draco Malfoy, to Gilderoy Lockhart, to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named himself. Arguably the most witty of these came from Eve McLachlan, who pointed out that Voldemort is not only the greatest historian in the world (he literally put his soul into historical relics) but also the greatest neurosurgeon (having been able to get inside someone’s head).
Both speakers and audience came to the debate in a variety of Halloween costumes, further details of which are sadly unavailable due to my own poorly-executed attempt to dress up as a Dementor. If these were even half as entertaining as the aspects of the debate not obscured by the bin bag over my head, then that would be an achievement in itself.