My election tipping panel: Stephen Webb

Tories didn’t mean climate-change sceptics to lose their seats, Stephen Webb says Our presidential primary system is different from that of the US. In the past, after the exit poll of primary voters was…

My election tipping panel: Stephen Webb

Tories didn’t mean climate-change sceptics to lose their seats, Stephen Webb says

Our presidential primary system is different from that of the US. In the past, after the exit poll of primary voters was published, I thought the candidates’ performance was at least as important as other votes. But in the US this had been regarded as an afterthought and the process was largely about building up to a political debate at convention, so I never thought to look at the exit poll. But now we have a polarised debate between a hardcore anti-Brexit and a hardcore EU campaigner. In the US, the Tea Party activists were one extreme and the greens one extreme. With Brexit, the extreme, Brexit, nationalistic hard Brexit end of the debate has split the ruling party and brought in candidates who are populist and insulting in the hope that they can get on to the debate, so when voters go to the polls, this will be a decisive part of what they think about the candidates.

I don’t think I know the political party I am about to choose from because I don’t know anyone on the spectrum. The political parties have got to win, to pay attention to the electorate, because, all too often, they can be of no interest to the people who are voting on them. We can try to wall ourselves off from climate change – which is a very serious, awful, dangerous problem – and pretend we don’t know about it, but that is no way to live. The public is very wise; they’re hardly the blind followers you might expect them to be.

I’ve been advised to vote Tory because it’s going to be the best horse to bet on, but I don’t know whether that is a good thing. Either way, I’m not going to let people drive them away.

I left the constituency Labour party not because I had any problems with Ed Miliband as a person, but because it was getting a bit old-fashioned there. I don’t have a problem with Jeremy Corbyn or his party, but they do need to evolve. I’m not in favour of Corbyn, but I don’t think he can deal with the issues that may eventually arise because, at the moment, he can’t find room for the people who may come up with good ideas and change the strategy.

It’s harder than ever to develop radical ideas in the academy, and you need to rely on less traditional institutions. For that reason, a lack of diversity can come back to bite you. Where do we start? It’s difficult enough trying to find good students to teach, because it’s already hard enough, let alone trying to attract bad students, which will become impossible.

The first step to increasing diversity is to deal with bias from the structures we have. In the United States, they have worked hard on this. They recognise that it is vital for the long-term health of a profession, so as well as giving scholarships to black students, they have made sure that brown, black and Asian students are well prepared for the application process, so they won’t find themselves as targets, and the universities will have more diversity than they can deal with.

It’s not just universities that must get their house in order: on the course it is difficult to find good people. These universities do have to get through the Barcode scheme to recruit qualified qualified people from the social groups they want to see. They get some of their best people through that.

But there are people in the universities who actually shouldn’t be there: academics who aren’t responding to the ways in which students today are different. Most students are no longer people who were brought up to believe that they should leave university and go into a career, the way my generation left university and went into families. Most students are incredibly driven and passionate and interested in something that goes way beyond what my generation wanted to do with our lives. That is why you get well-qualified women graduating, because they can actually go straight into the workplace. The situation for men is probably worse.

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