We’re delighted to announce that the Hist now has hard evidence supporting a long-held conviction of ours: Hist A, Sally Rooney and Michael Barton, are officially the best debating team in Europe.
The two were ranked first at the recent European Universities Debating Championship (EUDC) in Manchester, held from the 18th to the 24th of August 2013. They flew through their two elimination rounds and gave a grandstand performance in the final. While the judges awarded first place to the team of Cambridge A (Ashish Kumar and Anser Aftab), Sally and Mike had pulverised all competitors until the last hurdle.
The team’s success in Manchester was the crest of a summer-long victory-wave. After being paired together last spring, Sally and Mike reached the finals of the Bristol Open, the Essex IV and the Earlsfort Open.
Both had gotten very good very quickly. Sally hadn’t debated competitively before coming to university and had only been to one previous EUDC; Mike was in his first year of university debating and had never been to any international competition. Nonetheless, in the run-up to EUDC and at the competition itself, they trounced teams who’d been speaking together for years.
Sally and Mike firmly buttressed their pre-EUDC success by winning seven out of nine of the competition’s preliminary debates, competing in three a day from 19 to 21 August. They placed a close second (out of four teams) in the other two. This amassed them a record 25 out of 27 points, making them the best-performing team not only at this EUDC, but also in the history of the competition since the inception of its current nine-round format.
The set of motions at this EUDC featured a greater proportion of International Relations topics and fewer abstract philosophy and social policy issues than in previous years. Sally (an incoming Politics and Public Policy MSc student) and Mike (a rising Junior Freshman History and Politics student) stayed gritty even when faced with proper nouns, sparring place-names and world leaders with the best of them.
For their quarterfinal on 22 August, Hist A faced Birmingham A (Andrew Green and Jamie Batchelor), Edinburgh A (Marlena Valles and David McCreath) and UCC Philosoph A (Barry O’Gorman and Gearóid Wrixon) on the motion that This House Believes that African Countries Should Adopt English as Their Principle Language of Instruction. A brimful grab-bag of arguments about disengagement from education and the cultural significance of language catapulted our team into the semifinals. Edinburgh A advanced alongside them.
Hist A and Edinburgh A then faced Glasgow A (John McKee and Duncan Crowe) and Nottingham A (Tim Lees and Tom Jackson) in their semifinal later that day. From second proposition, they supported the motion that This House Regrets that Western Media Demonised Islamic Terrorists Rather than Portraying Them as Criminals with Legitimate Political Grievances. Hist A’s typical torpedoing ensued: they took a clear first in this debate, making them only team the entire panel agreed to put through to the final. Edinburgh advanced with them again, this time on a 6-1 split decision.
The final itself was held on 23 August in the Palace Hotel. Edinburgh A were positioned in first proposition, with Hist A in first opposition, Oxford A (Matt Handley and Natasha Rachman) in second proposition and Cambridge A (Ashish Kumar and Anser Aftab) in second opposition. The motion was that This House Would Give More Votes to Citizens According to Their Performance on a Current Affairs Test.
Sally and Mike explained that the proposition’s policy would calcify state control by allowing a government-appointed bipartisan elite to set a political agenda and deny citizens franchise based on their ability to comply with it. They also argued that because the middle classes have greater financial resources and leisure at their disposal, they enjoy greater access to the sort of information the test would demand, meaning that the people most likely to be adversely affected by state policy would end up getting less influence over it. Hist A countered the proposition’s claim that less-well-educated people unwittingly vote against their own interests by pointing out that welfare recipients are entitled to hold any view on state spending, including one that would reduce their own benefits if enacted. This went down well with the audience. Many broke into applause at stages of both Hist speeches.
While the judging panel favoured Cambridge’s more individualistic arguments about single-issue voters and personality politics, Sally and Mike acquitted themselves tremendously. The statistics don’t lie: from the cumulative results of the first nine debates, Sally finished top of the speaker tab and Mike came second (tied with Anser Aftab of Cambridge A), crowning them respectively the Best and Second Best Speaker in Europe. We couldn’t be prouder of them.