by Fraser RaleighCries of ‘shame!’ rang through the chamber as it half emptied before the debate itself had even commenced, after yet another Free Speech diversion; heaven forbid the issues at hand are the main attraction any more.

Ed Waldegrave, by his own admission, bumbled through his first paper speech with an acceptable overview of the issues delivered with a likeable style. Austin ‘Haddock’ Mitchell, however, served as an example of what happens when you throw an eccentric speaker into a potentially boring debate. Charismatic and over the top, he bought up questions central to European integration such as: ‘Do British fish carry passports?’ and ‘Do they go on holiday to Spanish waters?’

As entertaining as he was dogmatically simple, he was one of the few speakers who managed to bring a smile to the face. Corey Dixon made some good points, speaking of how the advantages of the EU serve as a carrot for development and improvement with a slightly irritating, though earnest style. In a well argued riposte, Alex Betts spoke logically and in great detail but was far too long and somewhat grating.

Sometimes, it seems like Union debates are two speakers away from perfection and this was one such occasion. Eight speakers can often yield the appropriate variety of style, content and depth but when two of them are uninspiring and repeat arguments already made the debate feels disjointed and overly long. Lord Pearson, UKIP peer, delivered an interminably boring summary of previous points while David Curry was similarly forgettable. The surprise of the night, however, was Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP. While many didn’t subscribe to his politics, few could refute his stylistic competence. Bestriding the chamber like a cross between Hugh Laurie and Jeremy Clarkson, his voice carried through the chamber, his rhetoric was persuasive and his delivery smooth, articulate and off the cuff.

Despite these criticisms, however, the debate was a well balanced approach to a complex and divisive issue; it’s just a shame that so many felt the need to walk away from such discussion and debate. We have our politicized Union back, but at what cost to its fundamental purpose?