Image Credit: Ed Halford
Last week, I sat down with Ed Halford, who alongside being Nouse’s Politics Editor, is the founder and host of University Radio York show, York’s Political Mashup.
His show is designed to ensure that the political parties and associations at the University can present their ideas about contentious issues which affect the student community. The show aims for the political party societies to have ‘greater visibility’ at the University. Ed pitched the show at a URY meeting, using the same format famously used by Question Time. Although he faced some opposition in the creation of the show because of overlap with the output of other societies, the show’s first episode aired in October 2019.
He emphasised that before his show aired, the student political parties would face ‘little accountability’ and members from different parties would rarely interact with one another. He therefore provides a space for members of various parties to debate and challenge other’s views with the aim of holding others accountable, without it being detrimental to their own representation. This has been recognised by guests, Pads Elliott-Walker from the University of York Green Party stated: ‘The Political Mashup is a great way to get perspective from various different angles on some of the most pressing issues the country faces.’ Ed has found that his show is ‘constructive at [...] exposing the fact that there are many areas where the members of the York Labour Club and the Conservatives’ agree, despite disagreeing over ways and means.
The Covid pandemic has made the show a lot harder for debate to occur in the usual way; Ed detailed that it was a lot harder for him to chair the debates because there was an extra boundary between him and his guests. For the guests, he said it was a lot harder for them to come across as they wanted, as Zoom can make individuals appear ‘more aggressive’ or less assertive. Furthermore, when in the studio, there is a more meaningful interaction as the guests can chat before and after the show and ‘everyone normally walks out friends’.
Ed has said that his show has reinforced the idea within student political associations that they must reach out to those who ‘would not typically join their parties’, rather than remaining in their own bubble. It has also helped parties to ‘break down stereotypes which are very prevalent in respect to their political parties,’ Ed revealed. Tom Holderness from the University of York Labour Club noted that the show allows guests to combine ‘reasoned argument with genuine passion’. Furthermore, the show can highlight differences between the student membership of a certain political party and the line which the national party is taking, which serves as a reminder that although party members might share the same philosophy, they can disagree on certain issues.
For this format to work, the show must be both neutral and impartial, therefore members of all student party groups on campus are invited on as guests. The show seems to be supported by all sides of the political spectrum, as Ainan Ali, from the York Tories has also described his experiences on the show as ‘thoroughly enjoyable’. Ed noted that the general student opinion is represented though as often in debate the left-wing guests are more numerous than more right-wing members. On the other hand, this reinforces the fact that the left-wing consensus on campus is not shared by all members of the student body.
Ensuring that his guests represent the student body has proved a lot harder for Ed, who has found that he can frequently end up with an all-male show. He noted that an episode on International Women’s Day, when inequality within the workplace was on the agenda, he had included no female guests. He told me that the political parties hold the power over who appears on the show, and that they ‘aren’t entirely representative of the student community’ as they are often male dominated. During the interview, he encouraged more women to come onto the show to ensure that their opinions and views aren’t left unheard.
If you would like to be a guest on York’s Political Mashup, please contact your political party or association.