Matthew is chairman of the Queen Mary Debating Society

The Debating Society teaches members to debate topical and controversial issues with passion rather than with emotion. There is a debate every week and Matthew’s role is to facilitate the discussion.

Matthew particularly enjoys the diversity of the society and the opportunity it gives its members to explore their own beliefs.


Matthew, Queen Mary Debating Society:

The QM Debating Society was set up as a place where people from all sorts of ideologies and political backgrounds can come and actually explore what they believe in a bit more. It’s good because we have a debate every week and we’re trying to go and have a debating sport and enter tournaments as well.

The Debating Society is great because we have half Conservatives, half Labour, we’ve got the odd sort of social worker and Marxist – it’s really interesting when you bring these sorts of people together because it’s quite passionate in a sense, but we also learn the rules about it as well. Because you have 5 minutes each it stops personality and passion coming into it. I mean, you can be passionate but it’s not emotion, so it’s quite nice in the sense that everyone has an equal say and it’s all about how you communicate your point.

I’m Chairman so I sort of basically try and stop people talking when it’s not their time, trying to organise it. I get an overview of the society which is quite nice because I get to influence who comes in if I wanted to because everyone has their own issues – I think Kevin’s trying to get Nigel Farage in, and I think we’re trying to teach in schools next year as well which is the one thing I want to look after.

I think it’s the variety of people actually and it’s the sort of skills that you eventually develop – the sort of people who come with an opinion, they still have that opinion by the end but they’re so much more concise in saying what they believe in. It’s a nice thing because the sort of people you know at the start you see their views changing as they actually explore them, because the point is that they really have to research what they believe in and that’s a good thing in anyone really, to get a group of people to look at what they are as a person.

Explain and argue clearly and concisely:

I think quality of communication is hopefully one of them because I think it’s a valuable skill generally in life, because you spend 90% of your time in conversation or something like that. You talk a lot, and to be able to stand up in front of 50 people and give a speech on something you either believe in or not but still give it a fair, logical chance without any sort of fallacies, I think that’s helpful anywhere in life.

Apply my analytical skills to investigate unfamiliar skills:

Analysis of critical knowledge because we were having a debate about this, the idea that we’re in a time when you no longer need information retention because we have iPhone, smart phones, so it’s all about how you approach the information. So that’s quite good because you have to look at two different arguments and judge which the best is.

Work effectively in diverse communities:

I think the main thing is it does put everything in global perspective because we do debate other things from outside; we debate contemporary issues. Last week we had a Leveson enquiry debate which was quite nice to get international views – because we have international students at Queen Mary as well. Sara’s our resident Swedish person who has just a completely different continental view on everything, which is really interesting.