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OCA reform promises under fire

first_imgThe Oxford Conservative Association’s commitment to “change” has been called into question since their affiliation with the national Conservative Party at the beginning of term.The affiliation supposedly drew a line under a racist scandal in Trinity. However, the move’s real constitutional status is unclear, and some members appear to be planning to restore the society’s independence in the near future. Furthermore their punishment by the proctors seems to have been undermined by their relationship with new Oxford conservative organisation The Bow Group.It has been revealed that not all of OCA’s members were invited to the crucial meeting where the club decided to affiliate with Conservative Future, the youth branch of the Party.OCA held an emergency meeting in -1st week following the racism scandal of Trinity term last year. The decision to join Conservative Future was passed by a standing order. The constitution states that emergency meetings may be called, but notice must be given to the full email list, which includes all of OCA’s members. Some OCA members claim they were not informed of the meeting.One member said, “I was stunned when I found out that this affiliation motion had been brought to Council without informing the membership, thereby depriving us of our constitutional right to vote. Affiliation to the Party could turn out to be a positive move for the Association and it is bizarre that members were not even invited to vote on the issue. Calling Council in such a manner is in fact unconstitutional.Returning Officer George Harnett confirmed the standing order had been “legally passed” and pointed out, “it can but is unlikely to be removed.” To overturn a standing order requires a two thirds majority at council, as is required with any other rule change. Doubts over the change’s constitutionality will please members wishing to restore OCA to its former independent status. At the time of the motion’s passing, Oli Harvey and Alexander Elias emphasised the significance of the unanimous support of those present. However, not all OCA members seem as committed as these exec members.On a secret Facebook group called ‘OUCA – slate 2009’, Emmanuelle Efunbote wrote of his decision at the meeting, “I have indicated support for these changes for the time being, mainly because they provide us with a platform on which we can re-build our reputation, and to regain the independence which we have had historically, and so cherished”On the group’s page, Aditya Balachander commented, “With affiliation I fear that we could become another OULC and lose the liberty that made us unique.”Attention has also been drawn to the relationship between OCA and the recently established Oxford branch of the Bow Group, a think-tank associated with the Conservatives.OCA was banned from the Freshers’ Fair this year following the incidents of last Trinity and the Bow Group displayed a copy of Cherwell with the headline “Tories back disgraced Oxford Conservatives” across which they had scrawled “not us”.However, everyone who signed up to the Bow Group’s mailing list at Freshers’ Fair has since received emails promoting OCA’s events. Chair of the Bow Group, Oliver Lewis, insists the two organisations are separate however, and said the Bow Group was in “no way a face for OCA” at Freshers’ Fair, though he admitted he disagreed with the proctors’ banning OCA, saying it was “bad they didn’t have a chance to advertise.”Lewis explained that the group was not established in response to the events at OCA last term saying, “It has been in the works since Easter this year to fill a gap in the market – the need for a forum which allows members to discuss Conservative philosophy and policy and to help members develop their own understanding of the issues that this country faces and to help develop (and advocate) their personal philosophy.”Despite their apparent disassociation from OCA at Freshers’ Fair, Lewis told Cherwell that OCA and the Bow Group have a “brother” relationship.Yet online speculation continues as to the true purpose of the Bow Group, such as one OCA member’s comment: “Is it true that there were a few gimps standing by a stall at the Freshers’ Fair with placards saying ‘We are conservatives with nothing to do with OUCA’? Subscript: (except losing in its elections).”A spokesperson for the University said Oxford does not wish comment on the activities of OCA stating, “The behaviour of the OCA will be reviewed if or when they apply to be registered.”last_img

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