Easter Term 2013: Chairman’s Summary
It has been a pleasure to lead the Cambridge University Conservative Association this term. Thank you very much for your support in attending our events and joining in the ongoing political debate at Cambridge.
It was a stimulating and explorative term; you can get an idea of what we did by having a look at the termcard.
The four Conservative Members of Parliament who were kind enough to give their time to meet and speak to us together provided a broad spectrum of insights into Westminster life and the complex world of the House of Commons and government ministries. Andrew Lansley, former Secretary of State for Health and now Leader of the House of Commons, gave us his thoughts on the local political landscape (he is a Cambridgeshire MP and the event was just before the local elections), the challenges of providing the best possible healthcare that the country can afford, and how the Conservative Party can best communicate its achievements to the electorate in 2015. Claire Perry provided a powerfully honest and genuine picture of life as a new MP, working hard to contribute as much as possible to the Conservative Party and her constituents. She explained how her political outlook, and perhaps her no-nonsense professional approach, has been informed through her experiences in finance and consulting. Mark Harper, Minister for Immigration, discussed the challenges and complexities of an area vital both to long term social cohesion and to Conservatives successfully projecting themselves as a party with whom the aspiring and hard-working, no matter their background, can confidently identify. Dominic Grieve QC communicated the extent to which government policy has to be rooted in law, and the impact this has on a national, European and global level, and went on to field in-depth questions covering the legal position of such issues as Afghans working for the British Army, a ‘British Bill of Rights’, and the deportation of Abu Qatada.
Easter term’s policy discussion, where Ryan Shorthouse, Director of think tank Bright Blue, presented their latest publication ‘Tory Modernisation 2.0’, provided the most thought-provoking discussion about the future role, impact and image of the Conservative party, and debate continued at the pub long after the event’s finishing time.
We were delighted to be able to hold a debate jointly with the Cambridge Union Society. The motion ‘This House Believes the Welfare State is Unsustainable’ allowed for exploration of the balance between the commitment to protecting and supporting the vulnerable with issues of long-term affordability and unintended consequences of some of the benefits currently provided. Chris Skidmore MP, Freddy Gray, Assistant Editor of The Spectator, and Ryan Bourne of the Centre for Policy Studies gave complementary but varied perspectives on the future of welfare. The question of how we are going to maintain and develop a dynamic economy whilst adequately supporting those in need of help is a great one for our times, particularly against a background of a crisis of youth unemployment across much of Europe, and has no easy answers.
In contrast to these events, for which politicians came to Cambridge, it was fascinating and really great fun to make a visit to London for a meeting we had with Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne at Number 11 Downing Street. We even managed to meet with Theresa May, the Home Secretary; read more about this highlight of the term here.
We held a number of enjoyable social events both inside and out, from the Dining Room of the Cambridge Union Society to the beautiful surroundings of St John’s Scholars’ Garden. The Midsummer Ball we held at the Cambridge Guildhall in Market Square was a wonderful evening, a sit-down dinner followed by dancing until the small hours attended by almost 150 people. I was particularly pleased that we welcomed such diverse guests who were able to meet and speak with each other, many Cambridge students but also Cambridge alumni and friends from across the country.
Whilst I am very happy we saw so many people at our political and social events, we always want to see more, and while membership rose by over ten percent this term, I really hope CUCA will gain more members over the coming terms and continue to grow. Anyone is welcome to come, whether or not they share Conservative values. This is a fascinating time in politics with so much at stake for the future; do come along to our events even if you would just like to keep up to date with the general political discourse. And if you like it, join!
On another note, I am saddened to be leaving behind an executive team with only one female member. The successful future of CUCA, as the successful future of the Conservative Party, depends on a wide and dynamic support base, and for this we need something much closer to gender parity. The Association has much to offer those who get involved, and I encourage men and women students to run for positions for future terms.
I would like to end by thanking all of the speakers mentioned above, who gave up their time to meet us and answer our questions, and of course thank my colleagues on the committee, with whom it has been a pleasure to work. In particular, my Speakers Officer Sophie Odenthal was mindbendingly efficient and effective as always, and my successor, Chairman-Elect David Cowan, was a fantastic support for every aspect throughout the term. I wish him and his team all the best with taking CUCA forward.
CUCA Chair Easter Term 2013