Salons 2009

What's the Morality Behind Drugs Policy?

Date: 10 December 2009

Venue: Leeds Civic Hall

Speakers: Dolan Cummings (Institute of Ideas), Graham Aitken (Students for Sensible Drug Policy) and Darryl Bickler (Drugs Equality Alliance)

The drugs debate has long been dominated by the question of whether drugs should be prohibited or legalised, and of what kind of regulation is likely to minimise harm. While advocates of prohibition warn of the dangers of drugs and suggest that legalisation would make it worse, pro-legalisers insist that drug use is inevitable, and that prohibition only makes it riskier. But neither side has much to say about whether drug use is morally desirable, and if not, why not? The ongoing debate about reclassifying cannabis, for example, hinges not on whether dope turn users into degenerate hippies and dropouts so much as its effects on their mental health. Is this a reasonable argument for greater restrictions, or should we be free to choose our own poison, whatever its ill effects?

If drugs could be made completely safe, would their use be all right? Is there any place for drugs in the good life? Are drugs a means to expand our horizons and experiences, or a harmless recreational choice? Or are they a pernicious influence? Should politicians use the law to send a moral message?  

The Case Against Vetting

Date: 2 December 2009

Venue: University of Leeds Student Union

Speaker: Josie Appleton (Manifesto Club)

In partnership with Leeds University Liberty Society.

Over the last few years, concerns about child protection have led to the ever more stringent regulation of interactions between adults and children. The recent case of the Ofsted inspection into the home of two policewomen that were told they could not babtsit for each other unless they were vetted and officially registered as childminders, gave rise to cries of 'health and safety gone mad'. But is it right to vet teachers, youth and sport club volunteers and other adutls who work with children? Or, is the craze for vetting undermining the capacity of adults to look out for children? 

Rethinking Global Politics

Date: 21 November 2009

Venue: University of Leeds Student Union

Speaker: David Chandler (University of Westminster)

In conjunction with Leeds Summat and Together for Peace

Even before the credit crunch it was commonplace to describe the world we live in as 'global', or to preface discussions with an acceptance that the world was rapidly 'globalising'. In his presentation, David Chandler will seek to question what it means politically to understand the world in global terms.

Why is it that the world has become global? When did global consciousness develop and what does it express about ourselves and our social and political relationships? Why do we think of ourselves as global citizens, with global responsibilities? Can politics even exist in a global world? Or is global politics just nation-based politics writ large or does it express a very different normative content?  

Rethinking Freedom in the Age of Health and Safety

Date: 15 October 2009

Venue: Leeds Civic Hall

Speakers: Cath FollinStuart WaitonYvonne Crowther, Phil Hadfield & Dolan Cummings (chair)

A Battle of Ideas Satellite Event

ASBOs, bans on smoking and drinking in public places, the fight against obesity and regulation of school meals, parenting orders and the vetting of adults working with children and vulnerable people are only a few examples of the seemingly unstoppable rise of legislation and regulation designed to control people's behaviour in areas of personal and civic life that were previously free from state interference.

In 2005 then Prime Minister Tony Blair acknowledged that only a few years before the British people would not have found these changes 'acceptable'. For example, interference in the family through parenting orders 'would have either seemed somewhat bizarre or dangerous and indeed there are still people who see this as an aspect of the nanny state, or that we are interfering with the rights of the individual.'

Yet the erosion of such 'individual rights' has proceeded unhampered and at increasing pace.  For the most part, these developments are neither presented nor experienced as infringements on liberty, but rather as commonsense measures to improve the health, security and wellbeing of all.

Is it really worth standing up for the right to smoke or drink wherever we please, to behave without consideration for others and to expose children to unnecessary risks?  Should we welcome state guidance and regulation designed to help us lead healthy and happy lives?  Or do we lose something when individuals must defer to a benevolent state?

Are our political leaders exploiting 'health and safety' to impose laws and regulations that are incompatible with a democracy of free citizens, or are they just responding to popular demand?  Can indeed citizens be free that value health and safety above all things?  Are restrictions of individual liberties a price worth paying for the sake of our communal life, or might they actually harm civil society? 

Energise! A Future for Energy Innovation

Date: 6 July 2009

Venue: Leeds Metropolitan University

SpeakerJames Woudhuysen

President Barack Obama has made energy and climate change the centrepiece of his programme to revive America's economy.  China, India and the East want and need more energy.  Meanwhile, Britain’s shortage of electricity generation could bring about power cuts.

Energise!: A Future for Energy Innovation argues that you shouldn't feel guilty about your carbon footprint. The way to deal with global warming is to build a bigger, better energy supply, not to invite the state to meter your family's every use of energy at home and in the car.

Taking an in-depth view of the past, present and future of energy and climate change, Energise! sets out a programme for innovation in nuclear, carbon-based and renewable energy.  That programme is one in which governments and industry do what they are supposed to do: enable people to get on with their lives.  

From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and its Legacy

Date: 4 June 2009

Venue: Borders Bookshop, Leeds

Speaker: Kenan Malik

On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Rushdie fatwa, From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and Its Legacy tells, for the first time, the full story of this defining episode and explores its repercussions and resonance through to contemporary debates about Islam, terror, free speech and Western values.

When a thousand Muslim protesters paraded through a British town with a copy of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses before ceremoniously burning the book it was an act motivated by anger and offence as well as one calculated to shock and offend. It did more than that: the image of the burning book became an icon of the Muslim anger. Sent around the world by photographers and TV cameras, the image announced a new world.

Twenty years later, the questions raised by the Rushdie Affair - Islam's relationship to the West, the meaning of multiculturalism, the limits of tolerance in a liberal society - have become some of the defining issues of our time.

Taking the Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa as his starting point, Kenan Malik examines how radical Islam has gained hold in Muslim communities, how multiculturalism contributed to this, and how the Rushdie affair transformed the very nature of the debate on tolerance and free speech. 

Global Citizenship in the School Curriculum

Date: 17 April 2009

Venue: Waterstones, Leeds

Speakers: Alex Standish and Vanessa Pupavac

As the school curriculum inBritain and in the U.S. has changed from a subject-centred and national approach towards a child-centred and multicultural one, global citizenship - a new set of values to do with respecting the environment, diversity, and human rights – has been imposed on almost every subject and geography in particular.

For its supporters, the turn towards global citizenship represents a belated opening of education to the real problems facing the world. It is a change that has the potential to connect children’s lives to global problems and to show how, by modifying their lifestyles, individuals can contribute to the wellbeing of the planet and of humanity. For its critics, the teaching of global citizenship is a moralistic attempt at behaviour modification which undermines the integrity of school subjects and children’s understanding of the world.  Far from creating better citizens, it fails to develop children’s capacity for autonomous judgment. 


Follow Leeds Salon

Leeds Salon on Facebook

Follow theleedssalon on Twitter



Sign up to our mailing list


The Leeds Salon is a judging partner of the sixth form Debating Matters competition

The Tetley and The Leeds Salon are partners in school debate for central and south Leeds

The HFoI and The Leeds Salon are partners in school debate for north Leeds


Leeds Salon is a member of the Amazon Affiliate Programme. When you follow this link, we receive a small percentage of anything you spend in that visit. It costs you no extra but is a big help to us!

Leeds Debate Links

Arts Society Leeds

Café Psychologique

Café Scientifique (Chapel Allerton)

Café Scientifique (Headingley)

FORUM 2000

Headingley Festival of Ideas

Headingley LitFest

Leeds Library Salon

Leeds Phil & Lit Society

Leeds Pint of Science

Taking Soundings

Talking Allowed In Leeds: PiPs

Think Headingley: PiPs


National Debate Links

Salon Aberystwyth

Birmingham Salon

East Midlands Salon

Exeter Salon

Liverpool Salon

London Legal Salon

Manchester Salon

Academy of Ideas

Debating Matters

Manifesto Club


The Great Debate



Global Debate Links

Berlin Salon

Dublin Salon

Zurich Salon


Donations gratefully received