Led by Michael Sani, the third of five live debates scheduled by political engagement charity Bite The Ballot featured YouTubers questioning Labour Leader Ed Miliband on the subjects of jobs, health, democracy and immigration.
On 10 December, Bite The Ballot aired the third in their series of live debates with the major party leaders scheduled to occur in the run-up to May’s general election. Featuring Labour leader Ed Miliband and produced by ITV News, the debate was live streamed on the Bite News YouTube channel.
The panel of British YouTubers asking Miliband questions included Leena Normington, Lucy Evenden, Myles Dyer, James Hill and Rosianna Halse Rojas, among others. Viewers watching the live stream were able to tweet their own questions to Miliband via the panellists.
The debate started by Miliband covering his policy on jobs and how it would affect those present in the audience. Jamal Edwards asked him how he plans to tackle the current youth employment crisis to which Miliband said: “Tax the bonuses of the bankers and use those resources … to guarantee every young person – who’s been unemployed for more than 12 months – a job”. This was followed by Leena asking if he would consider cutting politicians’ wages. “I’m not going to be part of a government who gives a big pay rise to MPs when we’re still having tough times for nurses, teachers and lots of private sector workers,” said Miliband, who then went on to emphasise the need for greater diversity in parliament.
Hannah Witton raised the issue of unpaid internships and zero-hour contracts. Miliband explained he found neither acceptable in the long-term and was keen to bring in a new principle that meant workers on a zero-hour contract should be upgraded to a permanent contract if they do regular hours. He encouraged viewers to join in the creation of a youth manifesto regarding work and business by going to the Labour website for more information.
Moving onto the topic of health, Miliband said the way we think about the health service is too narrow. “It should be about physical health but it should also be about mental health,” said Miliband, who continued to stress how much of a priority mental health was to his party but conceded that “we still have a long way to go”. Lucy asked about Miliband’s own experiences with drugs in regards to making legislation about them, to which he explained that he has never taken drugs (barring alcohol) and, while he admits there are health benefits to cannabis, isn’t in favour of decriminalisation because he worries about the message it sends to young people. The topic ended with Rosianna asking if protest-exclusion zones should be enforced around abortion clinics. Miliband said: “It’s such a difficult decision for any woman to make to have an abortion that they need proper protection… that’s got to be non-negotiable” but also added that the right to protest was important.
Democracy was then discussed, at which point Miliband said: “I think we need to hear the voice of young people more.” He went on to announce that he intends to lower the voting age to 16-years-old by May 2016. He was questioned about the representation of ethnic minorities and young people within the Labour party, to which Miliband admitted that they were “doing a bad job” but have a Future Candidates program in place to tackle this issue.
The final topic was immigration during which Miliband reflected on Nigel Farage’s comments in last week’s live stream and said “immigration is a benefit to the country”. When asked to outline how he proposed to promote these benefits, Miliband explained it was showing that there were controls in place regarding the numbers of people entering and exiting the country, and about overcoming people’s concerns. Rosianna questioned him on the language used to describe immigrants and whether this led to public anxieties. Miliband replied: “We’ve got to call out racist sentiment when it’s there”.
Miliband was unable to answer Jazza John’s question on why gay men are not allowed to donate blood. He told Lewis Parker that he wanted to lower university tuition fees and finished by responding to a question on criminal re-offenders by saying Labour would tackle the root of the problem, engage with youth services and give people a sense of hope and aspiration.
During the debate viewers were encouraged to tweet #YesEd or #NoEd to show support for Miliband’s policies. The results were published throughout the live stream and generally showed viewers were in favour of his answers.
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Nick Clegg (Lib Dem) Tue 16 Dec 6-8pm
Topics: Health, Education and Jobs/Economy
David Cameron (Conservative) To be announced