Union announces one of its most lacklustre line-ups in years

Fewer celebs, more politics, and a general lack of ‘oomph’

Cambridge Union Cambridge Union Society daniel zeichner Liberal Democrats MPs Tim Farron

The Union has revealed their term card for Michaelmas this year, featuring a somewhat disappointing array of speakers: yet a few gems shine out. 

With what was a highly star-studded line up last term, featuring an array of Hollywood A-Listers, anticipation would inevitably be high for this term, especially to entice freshers to pay the discounted £170 price tag. The line up, however, features fewer famous faces that would frequent your TV or film screens, and more hard hitting debates, including on the refugee crisis. Whilst these debates may live up to the Unions proclamation of ‘free speech’, they may not be guaranteed to grab the attention of freshers eager for a celebrity greeting.

The refugee crisis is one of the topics set to be debated

The refugee crisis is one of the topics set to be debated

Perhaps influenced by the baking sensation that is gripping the nation, TV baker Lorraine Pascale is due to take to the floor. Lorraine has already wowed audiences on Saturday Kitchen and across the pond on the Food Network in America, whilst with Olympic fever still in the air following the dramatics of Rio this summer, the appearance of Ade Adepitan MBE is undoubtedly a gem in the line-up, whilst highly acclaimed director Oliver Stone will clearly appeal to the more artistic amongst the members.

Yet few of the speakers, it seems, will really push the boundaries of free speech. Last Michaelmas was dominated by the scheduling of Julian Assange at the Union, which although controversial, posed an important challenge regarding the limits of freedom of speech. Without this sort of controversy surrounding speakers (anyone with teachers in the family may argue differently with the appearance of ex-education secretary Nicky Morgan)  and without the A-listers set to take the stage, will the Union grab the attention of freshers and members alike?

As well as this, it appears that once again the Union is struggling with a lack of diversity: eight out the thirteen speakers listed in the term card are male, although the weekly debate listings do appear to be more gender balanced.

Let's hope his performance in the chamber is better than the Lib Dem performance in the polls

Let’s hope his performance in the chamber is better than the Lib Dem performance in the polls

As usual, the Union seems to have picked topical issues for the weekly debates, including a self-aware ‘This House Believes That Oxbridge is Overrated’ and ‘This House would open its doors to refugees’.  Cambridge MP’s appear fairly prominent in the timetable, with former MP Dr Julien Huppert and current MP Daniel Zeichner participating in debates. Former Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, is also set to take to the floor on a debate on controversial feminist brand ‘Lean In’. Despite the relevant topics, it almost feels that the debates are becoming somewhat generic, featuring an array of student politicians, D-list journalists and ex-MP’s.

Despite these problems, there are several events being hosted throughout the term to give some extra perks for the pricey membership: the annual Freshers Ball will give the freshers a taste of the black tie life, whilst a puppy therapy session carefully scheduled for week five ought to combat the blues. Once again, the Union has decided to foray into real life politics as well with screenings of the US election debates, and an ‘American Election All-Nighter’, where the results will be screened as they come.

If this doesn't make you happy, what will?

If this doesn’t make you happy, what will?

President Asia Lambert told The Tab ‘I am really proud that this term at the Union we are debating the approach taken to the current Refugee crisis across Europe and further afield. I think it’s an important conversation that needs to be had and having the opportunity to hear the Jordanian Ambassador, alongside charity workers who are dealing with the crisis on the ground, will give an invaluable insight into how we can begin to deal with the situation.’

She said that the Freshers Ball is a fantastic opportunity for Freshers to get to know others outside of college beyond that ‘Oliver Stone and David Bailey will be fantastic events for those who are interested in film and photography, and for the politically minded having the opportunity to speak with Tim Farron the leader of the Liberal Democrats is also guaranteed to be a popular event.’