There is a problem with British politics, and unfortunately it starts with us. It is endemic and like an overgrown clematis threatens to choke the tree that supports it. The problem stretches beyond the Conservative party, but it is the Conservative party that we seek to protect.
The problem is one of culture and of image – the two are mutually reinforcing. An image exists, members seek to ape the image, and a culture is set which perpetuates it – a cycle of destruction which assists in reaffirming Labour’s criticism. A few members of Conservative Future, and certain branches such as OUCA and CUCA, do not help in this regard. I am no exception. I felt the need to change certain key tenets of myself to be accepted and elected by members of OUCA. It took a long time to realise the damage that was being wrought. Whilst there are key reformers out there, and for my part I did try to introduce a more strenuous political and charitable side to OUCA, they are too few in number. Too many young Conservatives want to be Little Lord Fauntleroy. How do we change the incentives and the structures which perpetuate this pseudo-aristocratic behaviour? With greater democracy and transparency, but fundamentally by saying no to unacceptable behaviour when we see it. I have now seen both sides of the coin with how I entered the Conservative Party in West Yorkshire to being involved in Oxford politics and the disparity is stark. It is time we started to truly engage with local communities and reform our youth branches.
An article in ‘The Commentator’ by Harry Cole and Joe Armitage highlights the point perfectly – OUCA and CUCA, the main representatives of the Conservative movement at our two most prestigious universities, have become malignant entities, cancers at the heart of the movement. It cannot be allowed to go on. We cannot fail to engage or promote Conservatism at Oxford or Cambridge. For every rotten apple left untreated, we risk the spread of infection. They are the associations that the nation looks to, precisely because of how many leaders and ministers they have and will continue to produce. Only through centralised pressure (stopping of speakers) and localised initiative (actions of the grassroots) can they be restored to sanity and soundness.