Tory Balls

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I think Channel 4’s Fact Check is being a little unfair to Gideon Osborne here in stating that is claim that Ed Balls was a member of the Tories at university is completely bogus.

It is true, at least in my experience, that there is a very different political culture in Oxford and Cambridge when it comes to signing up people to student societies. Elsewhere in the country, student groups often struggle to sign up enough people and mostly treat the Fresher’s Fair as a recruitment ground. Back when I was the LDYS Communications Officer we were always frustrated with the fact that the Oxford group didn’t see it as their role to recruit people into the party, but rather have lots of jolly parties. I’m not for a minute suggesting this is still the case; I have no idea. Nor am I denying that many of the party’s brightest and best went to Oxbridge; indeed in my experience many of those people had the same frustrations I did and got politically involved in other ways.

But seriously, why would you join the “Conservative Association” unless you were genuinely inclined to join the Conservative Party? If you just wanted to go on jollies, there’s the Oxford Union or the Wine Society. While there are always a few wags who delight in joining all three parties, they are rarely people with firm political convictions.

So the fact that a potential future Labour Chancellor of the Exchequor once flirted with the Tories is both meaningful and important for the public to know. The fact that it took an annoying squit like Gideon to point it out is neither here nor there.

3 thoughts on “Tory Balls

  1. Well, purely personal anecdote but I somehow ended up a member of the Cambridge University Conservative Association without any action on my part – I *think* this might have been some nefarious internal politicking to do with a “how many new members you signed up” requirement in order to stand for their committee.

    (i.e. someone just added a whole load of names of people from the Cambridge Union in order to make quota)

    Or possibly someone wanted to invite me to a garden party.

    Which actually brings me to the second thought: rather a lot of people joined CUCA entirely for the copious champagne garden parties. This was before internet dating, of course 😉

  2. I own up: I spent a fiver in my penultimate turn to join the OU Conservative Association (OUCA). 😳

    Unlike several Labour activist friends (who did indeed join for the parties, for which OUCA are famed), I joined to make sure I could vote *against* someone I was expecting to stand in their elections. I figured this individual could be a serious & dangerous politico in the real world if he decided to go down this path, so it was worth the money to try and prevent that. Thankfully he decided to become a merchant banker instead.

    I wouldn’t have done it, though, if it had entailed membership of the Tory party.

    OTOH when I joined the Uni LD group in my first term I seem to recall being automatically signed up to the Federal party & LDYS.

  3. As a member of Oxford LDYS (OULD) in the 90s I’d like to dispute the notion that they had ‘lots of jolly parties’. They were awful, people used to go leafleting for Evan Harris to avoid them.

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