Liverpool Debating Union

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Liverpool Debating Union, also known as 'The LDU' or 'Liverpool Debating Society', is a debate club in Liverpool that specialises in the British Parliamentary Style of debating, and is the 6th oldest debating society in England.[1] Primarily based at the Liverpool Guild of Students,[2] its membership is open to all students at University of Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool Hope University, Edge Hill University and Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, as well as to residents of the city.

The Union hosts training sessions, events, workshops and socials, and also regularly attending Debate competitions across the United Kingdom and Europe.

A selection of their recent public events include 'An Evening with Helen Pankhurst and a Debate on Feminism',[3] 'The Big Brexit Debate',[4] and 'The University of Liverpool Inaugural Founders' Debate', the lattermost of which had to be postponed due to precautions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Early History[edit]

A long history of debating and discourse exists in Liverpool. Notably, the area is home to British Parliamentary Style debating, which began to gain prominance in the mid 1800s, and now is the domnant format in university Debating.[5]

Liverpool Debating Union was only one of many debating societies to exist in the city, moulding itself on groups including Liverpool Parliamentary Debating Society, Liverpool Independant Debating Society,[6] Liverpool Athenaeum, and Liverpool University Medical Students Debating Society. Unlike the Durham Union, which did not allow women to speak at the society until 1963, the LDU allowed full rights and privilages to its female members from its creation.[1]

The LDU also managed to profit from the Philanthropic culture of Liverpool, especially in the form of the Gilmour Hall, donated in 1913 for the purpose of debating. The hall was double-heighted, with balconies, Doric pillars, and marble doors, connecting both wings of the building together.[1] It has now been converted into the reception area of Liverpool Guild of Students.

As for membership, it dwindled from the hundreds to the mid-30s at the turn of the century, due to the flippant tone of its debate topics, however, began to increase its membership once more from 1905 as debating became increasingly political in anticipation of World War I, rising to over 300 attendees to some debates in the Interwar period.

In the early 19th century, members of the Liverpool Debating Union were also known for their reputation in support of progress and activism. Examples of this include the following:

  1. A 1911 debate, in which the use of military force by the government against dock strikers was condemned by a majority in excess of two thirds.
  2. A 1912 debate, in which members rejected a motion stating that ‘Militant tactics are detrimental to the best interest of women's suffrage’.[1]

After World War II, membership dwindled once more, as the quality of debating had reduced during wartime.[7]

The LDU changed its name from 'Liverpool Debating Society' to 'Liverpool Debating Union' in the 1990s in order to emphasise the acceptance of membership from all of the Liverpool universities.

Present Day[edit]

The Liverpool Debating Union currently meets in the Liverpool Reilly Building.

Current goals of the LDU include increased efforts in recruitment, event ouput and competitive training, increasing ties with local schools, and compiling the history of the Union (a research project lead by Olivia Mackender, the 2019-20 Vice President).

Committee Structure[edit]

The LDU committee is governed by its constitution,[8] and is made up of a number of specialised committee roles. A number of subcommittees co-exist alongside the committees listed below.

Executive Committee Roles[edit]

  • President
  • Secretary
  • Treasurer

General Committee Roles[edit]

  • Vice President
  • Convenor
  • Schools' Convenor
  • Equity and Inclusions Officer
  • Novice Training Officer
  • Competitive Training Co-Ordinator
  • Competitions' Officer
  • Events' Manager
  • Social Secretary
  • Publicity and Recruitment Officer

University Outreach Officers[edit]

  • John Moores' Representative Officer
  • Liverpool Hope Representative Officer

Notable Competitions[edit]

Liverpool IV[edit]

The Liverpool Inter-Varsity Debating Competition is an annual event in British Parliamentary Debating Style. It usually occurs in March, caters to 40+ teams, and takes place in Liverpool Guild of Students. It is known for its large number of high quality Pro–am teams that tend to compete, as well as for other well-reviewed elements such as its Pizza toppings and yakka recipe, its time efficiency, and its evening social event.

Recent finalists of the Liverpool IV include teams from Manchester Debating Union, Edinburgh University Debates Union and Durham Union, who debated the rise of Cancel culture at Liverpool IV 2019.[9]

Liverpool Schools[edit]

Integration with schools in the local community returned to the goals of the LDU in 2020, when the 2019-20 President, Joshua Forrester, began working with Liverpool College to organise Liverpool Schools. The competition is held in British Parliamentary format.

The Red Rose Cup[edit]

The Red Rose Cup is a British Parliamentary Style debating competition that takes place anually between the universities of Liverpool, Manchester and Lancaster.[10] It was created to increase ties between these local institutions and to create a comfortable environment in which new debaters can compete against one another in pro-am teams.

The Cup was originally hosted annually by the institution that won at the previous year's competition, but due to monetary issues at Manchester Debating Union and membership issues at Lancaster Debating Union, it is now primarily hosted by Liverpool Debating Union. One notable issue witht he competition is that it usually runs at a loss.

Notable Debates[edit]

  • That the fool does more harm than the knave (pre-1905)
  • That elephants should wear straw hats (1926)[11]
  • That an OTC be formed connected with the University (1912, passed)
  • That military power is socially and economically futile (1914)
  • That England is on the brink of a revolution (1919, defeated)
  • That a State medical service is preferable to private practice (1930, passed)
  • That Great Britain will be engaged in a major war within five years (1933, passed)
  • That the League of Nations should be abandoned (1933, defeated; 1935, passed)

See Also[edit]

  • Oxford Union
  • Literary and Historical Society (University College Dublin)
  • Manchester Debating Union
  • Glasgow University Dialectic Society
  • Durham Union Society
  • Cambridge Union
  • Liverpool Athenaeum
  • European Universities Debating Championships


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Dockerill, Bertie (2018), Burkett, Jodi, ed., "'Forgotten Voices': The Debating Societies of Durham and Liverpool, 1900–1939", Students in Twentieth-Century Britain and Ireland, Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 101–128, doi:10.1007/978-3-319-58241-2_5, ISBN 978-3-319-58241-2
  2. "Liverpool Debating Union @ Liverpool Guild of Students". Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  3. "Event Review & Opening Up The Feminist Debate". Livy The Blogger’s Blog. 2019-11-13. Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  4. "The Big Brexit Debate". University of Liverpool. Retrieved 2020-08-06. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  5. Haapala, Taru (2012). "Debating Societies, the Art of Rhetoric and the British House of Commons: Parliamentary Culture of Debate before and after the 1832 Reform Act". Res Publica: Revista de Filosofía Política. 27: 25–6.
  6. Wright, John (1813). The Right of Free Discussion Claimed and Exercised: A Narrative of the Origin & Proceedings of the Independent Debating Society in Liverpool, Instituted the 17th of March, 1813, with a Report of Several Speeches. F.B. Wright. Search this book on Logo.png
  7. LDS Termly Report of the Debates Committee to the Council of the Guild, 1941, University of Liverpool Special Collections and Archives, A.32/75.
  8. "LDU Constitution". Liverpool Debating Union. 2020-05-15. Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  9. "Liverpool IV 2019 | Welcome to Liverpool IV 2019". Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  10. "A Successful Year for Liverpool's Oldest Debating Union". Liverpool Guild Student Media. 2020-07-20. Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  11. LDS, Minute Book, 1926, University of Liverpool Special Collections and Archives, A.32/73.

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