|The Rt Hon. David Cameron|
|The Rt Hon. Jacob Rees-Mogg MP|
|Prof. Paul Elbourne, Magdalen College|
|Marcus Walford, Lady Margaret Hall|
The Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA) is a student Conservative association founded in 1924, whose members are predominantly drawn from the University of Oxford. OUCA was affiliated to Conservative Future, the Conservative Party youth wing, from 2009 until the dissolution of Conservative Future in 2016. OUCA maintains strong links to the national Conservative Party despite its lack of official affiliation.
Past Presidents of OUCA include former Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Edward Heath, as well as William Hague, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Jeremy Hunt, Dominic Grieve, Daniel Hannan, William Rees-Mogg, and Nick Robinson. Former OUCA committee members include Theresa May, Sir George Young, and Ann Widdecombe. Since 1957 there has always been at least one former OUCA President in the Cabinet of every Conservative government. Former Labour ministers Ed Balls and Chris Bryant are also OUCA alumni.
Until her death on 8 April 2013, the Patron of the association was Margaret Thatcher. The position of Patron has since been held by Sir John Major (2015-2019) and, as of present, David Cameron. Since 2016 the Honorary President has been Jacob Rees-Mogg.
- 1 Committee
- 2 Events
- 3 Relationship with the national Conservative Party
- 4 Oxford University Tory Reform Group
- 5 In the media
- 6 Controversy
- 7 Presidents
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
OUCA is run by its officers and committee, who are elected on a termly basis. The association has six Senior Officers, namely the President, the President-elect, the Treasurer, the Treasurer-elect, the Secretary, and the Political Officer, who chairs Port & Policy each week and is also responsible for organising campaigning events and social action. Four Junior Officers also help manage the association, as do its six Committee Members. OUCA's Returning Officer is responsible for running the elections and for administering the Association's internal disciplinary procedures. The President may appoint non-executive officers, such as a press officer. The Association's Rules and Standing Orders are available on its website.
In October 2018, OUCA announced that members of the Bullingdon Club would be banned from holding office within the Association. OUCA president, Ben Etty, said the Club's "values and activities had no place in the modern Conservative Party". This decision was overturned by the Association's disciplinary committee, as non-members were brought to the meeting of Council which voted for the ban. Despite this, the ban was subsequently reimposed by the association's Senior Member, Brian Young.
OUCA events and activities vary considerably, depending on the President and committee, but all activities follow five main strands; Port and Policy; speaker meetings; campaigning; social events; and social action.
Port and Policy
OUCA's most popular regular event is Port and Policy, in which political discussion is helped along by fortified wine. Between Trinity Term 1994 and Michaelmas 2012, Port and Policy was held eight times a term on Sunday evenings in the Oxford Union. In Michaelmas 2012 the Oxford Union did not renew the contract, and OUCA now uses other Oxford venues. Although the format is decided by the President and the Political Officer, two pre-announced motions are usually debated, followed by an emergency motion. The debate is held in a relaxed environment, accompanied by port. In May 2007, Port and Policy featured in the Channel 4 documentary Make Me a Tory. Port and Policy has been sponsored by The Spectator, who provided numerous complimentary copies of their publication, and Dow's Port, who provided discounted port. The growth in attendance at Port and Policy was featured in the Financial Times as evidence of growing popularity for the Conservatives among students.
The President of the Association is responsible for organising the term's events and inviting guest speakers. Past speakers have been Margaret Thatcher (November 2002), John Major (April 2010, May 2016), David Cameron (May 2008), Theresa May (December 2015), Nicky Morgan (May 2016), Michael Heseltine (June 2016), Nigel Lawson (November 2011), Michael Howard (February 2007 and June 2008), Liam Fox (October 2011), Michael Ancram, Edward Leigh, George Osborne, Alan Duncan, John Redwood, Ann Widdecombe, David Davis, the Earl of Onslow, Iain Duncan Smith, David Willetts, Oliver Letwin, Lord Patten, Brian Mawhinney (October 2012), Daniel Hannan (October 2012), Jeremy Hunt (October 2012, March 2017), and Andrew Lansley (November 2012, March 2017).
OUCA often campaigns in local and general elections in other constituencies. During the 2010 British General Election, OUCA campaigned in Oxford West and Abingdon, where the Conservative candidate, Nicola Blackwood, overturned the Liberal Democrat MP, Evan Harris, by a small majority. In the run up to the 2015 United Kingdom general election, which saw Blackwood's majority go up from 176 to 9,582 votes, OUCA campaigned every week in that constituency. In 2012 OUCA campaigned in London in support of Boris Johnson for the mayoral election.
In the 2019 general election OUCA campaigned in marginal seats such as Chipping Barnet, where Theresa Villiers increased her majority, and Stroud, where Siobhan Baillie unseated the Labour MP David Drew.
Although social arrangements are left to the discretion of the President and the Social Secretary, they usually include a garden party in Trinity term, and trips to London to visit Parliament in Michaelmas and Hilary Terms. In Trinity term there are occasional sporting fixtures against the Oxford Union and Cambridge University Conservative Association. From time to the time the association also hosts events with Conservative think tanks and pressure groups, including the Freedom Association, the Army Benevolent Fund and the Adam Smith Institute. In recent years OUCA's termly Poker Night has become popular, as has its pub quiz.
OUCA regularly partakes in charity work in Oxford, with members being encouraged in particular to support projects which help the city's homeless population. OUCA holds a charity Port & Policy each term whose profits are entirely donated. Charities which OUCA has supported in the past include Mind, The Royal British Legion, the Icylon Smith Foundation, and KEEN (Kids Enjoying Exercise Now).
Relationship with the national Conservative Party
Until recently, OUCA was an independent organisation, and not part of the national Conservative Party, nor of its youth wing, Conservative Future. Relations between OUCA and the national party were weak. For example, OUCA (like Cambridge University Conservative Association, Durham University Conservative Association and University of York Conservative and Unionist Association) was automatically treated as separate from Conservative Future when the latter was founded in 1998. After various unfavourable reports in the national press, Conservative Party Central Office was normally quick to distance itself from OUCA. On 6 October 2009, however, the association voted to become affiliated to the Conservative Party, and it became an official representative branch of Conservative Future. This affiliation continued until the dissolution of Conservative Future in 2016.
In March 2010, an OUCA event in support of Oxford West parliamentary candidate Nicola Blackwood was used to launch Conservative Future's national Time to Get Involved campaign.
OUCA members sometimes stand for election to Oxford City Council. The council has traditionally been Labour-dominated, and the Conservatives have not held a seat on it since 2001. Alex Stafford (President, Michaelmas 2007) stood unsuccessfully for Holywell Ward in the 2008 Oxford City Council Election, achieving an 8.2% swing for the Conservatives. His brother Gregory, now a councillor in the London Borough of Ealing, stood in the same ward in 2004. More recently, Poppy Stokes and OUCA President Maryam Ahmed stood for the Conservatives in the 2014 Oxford City Council Election in the Holywell and Carfax wards respectively. This trend of putting up students as candidates in the city centre continued in the 2016 city council election, when OUCA President, George Walker, stood in Holywell Ward.
Oxford University Tory Reform Group
Julian Critchley described the OUCA that he encountered on his arrival at Pembroke College in 1951. Despite its 2,000 members, he said, "it was dominated by a patrician clique who preserved their power by preventing the membership at large from electing officers of the association. These were chosen by the committee which, although directly elected, was easily open to manipulation." Critchley and Michael Heseltine, defeated in their bids for OUCA office, set up a rival Conservative society, the Blue Ribbon Club.
In 1965 a group of OUCA members formed the Oxford University Tory Reform Group, pre-dating the national Tory Reform Group organisation. The OUTRG acted as a "one nation conservative" pressure group in Oxford, although it had a substantially smaller membership than OUCA. Interest declined as the national party became more moderate, and the OUTRG voted to disband and merge with OUCA during Michaelmas term 2007.
In an email to OUTRG members, its president Luke Connoly reported that an extraordinary general meeting held at the Lamb and Flag public house at 3pm on 18 November 2008 unanimously voted to dissolve the OUTRG as of midday on Saturday of 8th week (1 December 2007) and to merge with OUCA. He cited falling attendance and a belief that OUCA had "genuinely become more liberal", adding that the merger "will make debate between wings of the party much easier and more productive". Later in the year, Douglas Hurd, a patron of the national TRG, lamented the disbanding of the Oxford Branch, saying that it was "very important that the One Nation view is powerfully represented".
In the media
The Channel 4 documentary Make Me a Tory, produced by Daniel Cormack, aired on 13 May 2007. It included footage from one of OUCA's Port and Policy meetings and an interview with Conservative party leader David Cameron.
In Trinity Term 2010, just over a week before the 2010 General Election, the Oxford Mail reported John Major's visit to the association. The Daily Mail newspaper subsequently reported the event and criticised The Oxford Student newspaper for its "anti-Tory" coverage.
Accusations of racism
In 2000 four OUCA members were expelled from a meeting for making "Nazi-style salutes". The New Statesman reported that a member of the OUCA committee at the University's 2001 Fresher's Fair greeted new students by saying, "Welcome to OUCA – the biggest political group for young people since the Hitler Youth". Another member was dismissed from the Oxford University Student Union's executive for "marching up and down doing a Nazi salute". In 2007 a drunken OUCA member gave a Nazi salute at a meeting attended by a former Tory MP.
In 2004 an ex-treasurer of the association was found guilty of bringing OUCA into disrepute "after posting 'offensive' comments about India in a newsletter". At an OUCA hustings in 2009, two candidates made racist jokes, encouraged by others present. The incident led to national media coverage and an investigation by the University, which then refused to re-register the association, forcing it to drop University from its name and become OCA (Oxford Conservative Association). As a result of the incident, two members were expelled from the national Conservative party, and the Oxford Union banned OUCA from using its premises for hustings and in-camera events.
In 2011 The Oxford Student newspaper received leaked video footage of an OUCA member singing the first line of a song glorifying the Nazi Party in the Junior Common Room of Corpus Christi College after an OUCA meeting at the Oxford Union in 2010. This led to the resignation of some current and former members of the association. The university launched an investigation into the society as a result of the reports. The Dean of Corpus Christi subsequently banned all OUCA events at the college indefinitely.
On 25 February 2012 The Daily Telegraph reported that the association had had an unpaid debt of more than £1200 in relation to a charity event held "in support of the Army Benevolent Fund at the Cavalry and Guards Club on Pall Mall in June 2009", which had not been settled until the beginning of 2012. As a result of this and other administrative shortcomings, the university for a second time refused to re-register the association for a period of 12 months, during which time it was again known as OCA, regaining university affiliation at the start of Trinity term 2012.
Drunken and sexist behaviour
During Hilary term 2018, Alasdair Macpherson, Bullingdon Club president and Returning Officer, boasted of drinking "43 drinks" and chanted "my castle's bigger than yours" and "I'll buy your family" at an OUCA event. The President who appointed Alasdair, Timothy Doyle, was in the same year with him at Eton College. Problems with drunken behaviour persisted at events, as according to a later report presented to the association’s council by a Junior Officer:
“There is a common perception that the association has a problem with sexism, and this perception is right. There are a number of members who feel able to treat women with disrespect and discourtesy. There have been numerous reports from members that last Sunday several attendees at Port and Policy groped, touched, kissed (or attempted to), or otherwise harassed female guests. When this issue was raised in the committee Facebook group chat, as well as by the Treasurer with senior officers, it was dismissed due to fears of bad PR".
Further controversy has been reported, with women being referred to by "Miss" in a termcard authored by President Timothy Doyle.
For a complete list of presidents dating back to 1924, see Former presidents of Oxford University Conservative Association.
- Cambridge University Conservative Association
- Oxford University Liberal Democrats
- Oxford University Labour Club
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