Tories back Oxford Conservatives

first_imgThe Oxford Conservative Association (OCA), formerly Oxford University Conservative Association, has gained backing from the Conservative party and become part of the organisational structure of the Tory party. The change in constitution comes after last term’s allegations of racism and months of negative media coverage. The executive committee of the Association said they “recognised the need for change.”Following the hustings controversy of last Trinity, in which it emerged that candidates were encouraged to make racist jokes, the University decided to remove the Association’s right to use ‘Oxford University’ in their name. The Conservative Association was alsobanned from attending this year’s Freshers’ Fair.The decision to amend the constitution was passed unanimously by an emergency meeting of approximately thirty members of the Association. Those present were “representative of all shades of political opinion in OCA,” according to Oli Harvey, President-Elect.From now on OCA will be answerable to Conservative Future, the national organisation for young conservatives, losing the independent status it has clung to for over 80 years. All new recruits will have to become members of the Conservative party. President Alexander Elias will be encouraging the present membership to sign up to the party as well.Harvey argued that the decision to link to the party was “not a response to the scandal directly”, however admitted that “the sorts of bad publicity we were generating can’t continue.”When pressed upon the concrete changes the Association would be making, he stated that the executive is “deeply committed to making a serious and intelligent forum for debate”, which will include a focus on campaigning and supporting local candidates. Harvey also revealed that there would be moves towards signing the Association up to the University’s policy on equality. Elias insisted, “It’s all about changing the tone.” He added, “As Obama infamously warned us just a year ago, you can put lipstick on a pig; it’s still a pig.”Alex Bulfin, ex-JCR President of University College commented, “Anyone who thinks that the rotten elements of OUCA will simply melt away into the night alongside its acronym needs to think again.”Cherwell has been informed that a reform group of Oxford conservatives, already dubbed OUCF by the right-wing blogosphere, were in discussions with the party with the intention of establishing an Oxford University branch of Conservative Future.Michael Rock confirmed that he had been in discussions with several alternative parties, but denied that relationships with other groups had progressed further than conversations.He said, “I don’t think there’s any reason to have two separate conservative groups in Oxford.”Harvey echoed this sentiment, stressing that OCA would be “the only officially recognised conservative association in Oxford.”Reform groups are refusing to disclose details of their intentions or their current relationship with the party. However, one reformer expressed scepticism that formally attaching itself to Conservative Future would force the Association to change, commenting, “It isn’t their name that’s the problem, rather it’s the people involved in OUCA who make the society such a disgrace.” He added, “I’m not sure the bureaucrats at CCHQ realise how tough a challenge they have ahead of themselves.”Another student conservative commented, “I am surprised that the party has decided to endorse the Association, especially after so many recent controversies and in the run-up to the election. I have been campaigning for change and reform for years and I truly hope this will bring the change the Association so needs.”Stefan Baskerville, OUSU President added, “I think it will be a positive development for Oxford when there is a Conservative Association which will facilitate debate among conservative students, but is an association which does not and won’t tolerate bullying and racist behaviour.” There was initially speculation over whether the club would change its name, but Elias was able to confirm that the party was happy for them to continue using their old name. In addition to this, OCA will maintain a level of autonomy over its constitution, voting procedures and disciplinary procedures. The age-old tradition of weekly Port and Policy will continue to be held at the Oxford Union.Questions have been raised over whether the change of status for the Association will be anything more than a token gesture.Ben Lyons, co-chair of Oxford University Labour Club commented, “OUCA 2.0 are the same people who got elected at racist hustings. They are the same people who spoke in debates on reconquering the empire. And they are the same people who are still not allowed at Freshers Fair. This exposes the sham of David Cameron’s “progressive Conservative Party” as it goes out of its way to support a bigoted Bullingdon-lite.” Michael Rock, national chairman of Conservative Future, when asked whether he was convinced that OCA had changed, pointed out that the members of the Association involved in the hustings controversy were expelled from the party. However he added, “They [OCA] have to raise their standards to what we expect at CF.”Others are yet to be convinced of the substance behind the changes OCA has outlined this week. David Barclay, JCR President of Worcester, pointed out that the association would require “close scrutiny to ensure that a return to the shame of the port-swilling pompousness of OUCA is never again allowed a place in Oxford’s public life.”last_img read more

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