Another Oxford Union debating trick

Daniel Hannan, the Conservative MEP, in his Telegraph blog entry:

for much of the post-war era, German (or West German) governments have tended to fall between elections, as a result of shifting parliamentary coalitions, rather than at elections.

and the swift rebuttal from political scientist, and election specialist, Matthew Shugart:

There is one key problem with that argument: it is false. We could grant him the example of the FDP switching partners in 1982 and changingd a government from SPD-led to CDU-led before the end of a term. At least in recent decades, that is the only example we could grant him.

Yet another example of how the Oxford Union debating style grooms persuasive speakers that are mercenary about their facts. From James Fallows’ 1991 criticism of the Economist‘s grip on the American political class:

The other ugly English trait promoting The Economist’s success in America is the Oxford Union argumentative style. At its epitome, it involves a stance so cocksure of its rightness and superiority that it would be a shame to freight it with mere fact.

American debate contests involve grinding, yearlong concentration on one doughy issue, like arms control. The forte of Oxford-style debate is to be able to sound certain and convincing about a topic pulled out of the air a few minutes before, such as “Resolved: That women are not the fairer sex.” (The BBC radio shows “My Word” and “My Music,” carried on National Public Radio, give a sample of the desired impromptu glibness.)

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