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By Sophie FitzMaurice
Members of Oxford University Labour Club (OULC) and Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA) put aside their political differences last Friday to share a curry on the first annual OULC-OUCA crew date.
In an attempt to address the tribalism that has recently polarised JCRs and Facebook threads, OUCA President Henry Evans and fellow Corpuscle and OULC co-chair Jack Evans (no relation), sat face-to-face at the social event at Jamal’s to “eat curry and discuss our political differences and similarities”.
In October, The Oxford Student reported that Jim Everett resigned as Vice-President of Corpus JCR over the political climate in JCR meetings, complaining of “the stifling of opinion that wasn’t the traditional ‘left’”.
In a sign that political rifts may be healing, Everett – now Social Secretary of OUCA – was present at the crew date.
The Facebook event created by OULC assured prospective attendees that “this is not a joke”, but warned that the event would only become an annual fixture “provided everyone behaves”.
Good behaviour was exhibited by all, with members of both camps singing ‘The Red Flag’ followed by ‘God Save the Queen’ as a gesture of goodwill. It was concluded that OUCA members were more tone deaf than their OULC comrades.
Henry Evans presented Jack Evans with a ‘Thatcher for Dummies’ cartoon book and a bottle of Port. Jack Evans claimed the OULC’s gift to OUCA – a portrait of Margaret Thatcher – was in transit.
Last year, OUCA members were saddened by the theft of a portrait of Margaret Thatcher from their stall at Freshers’ Fair – a move some saw as politically motivated. The provision of a new portrait could therefore be seen as a symbolic gesture of reconciliation.
Conversation ranged from the merits of Tony Blair to inflation rates in the 1970s.
After the meal, OULC and OUCA members repaired to Freud’s – a cocktail bar in Jericho.
At one point in the evening OULC’s twitter account, @OxfordUniLabour, tweeted: “Very civil so far. Henry and Jack Evans getting on well. Bit of big society involved with table moving.”
OULC and OUCA members attempted to intermingle so they could get to know one another and discuss their views.
Not everyone was positive about the crew date, however. One attendee said: “Does every member of OUCA or OULC really want be the living embodiment of the professional technocrat? What has happened to our principles or higher purposes or whatever you will? Labour and Conservative used to represent very different belief systems – so why is there such a sense of convergence in contemporary times? Going to these dinners reveals the way in which Oxford is a crucible for the establishment. Even clubs founded on antagonistic principles can sit together over a curry and innumerable bottles of wine.”