Hello and welcome to the new UCLU Conservatives website! Since 2006, the society has run a publication called The Caerulean, which we have finally decided to take online in the form of the blog you’re reading at the moment.
As well as trying to boost circulation in a way that doesn’t involve standing out in the rainy quad with 200 soggy ‘magazines’, we really want to try to create more debate among right-leaning students.
Listening to the decrees set out by student unions across the country, the people who students elect to represent themselves, and even political academics in some of our best universities, you would be forgiven for thinking there is an intellectual drought on the Right.
I’ve heard people say before that classical liberals struggle to get their message across because it’s too complicated. I think on student campuses it’s the exact opposite. I’ve started to suspect that some of these lefties in our lecture halls and their sign-wielding apostles in the streets revel in the complexity of things like Hegelian Marxism and delight in scorning the apparent simplicity of the ‘invisible hand’ and I, Pencil.
This is not to say we should complicate our argument for the sake of complexity, but we shouldn’t be afraid to attack the Left at an intellectual level. While the vast majority of students are probably unlikely to be engaged by this sort of thing, it’s the squeaky wheels who create the appearance of campus wide consensus we need to do battle with.
I see no reason why we shouldn’t discuss the ideas of Friedman and Burke in the same way the Left discuss Gramsci and Lenin – not in an effort to form the same sort of esoteric Judean People’s Fronts and People’s Fronts of Judea you see between the Marxists and the Socialist Workers, but to spread our arguments in their most convincing form.
We have already begun to see huge progress in discussion on the Right. “In recent years there’s been a significant increase in the number of right-leaning societies at universities, including a growing number of Freedom Societies.” says Jack Hart of the Freedom Association. I think he captures the hub of the scheme when he says “Those on the right shouldn’t be afraid of debating the left, because it’s only by countering their failed ideologies that true change will be achieved.”
Adam Memon, a veteran of UCL debating and now Head of Economic Policy at the CPS said that although “right wing students are failing to tackle the Hard Left properly on campus, I think that is more the result of different attitudes to student life than reflecting an intellectual drought. For the Hard Left, the act of protesting, of dominating unions, of giving speeches etc are achievements in themselves; right wingers are more interested in results. The great majority of sensible, right leaning students are content to let the Left have their fun because frankly it doesn’t much affect them much.”
Generally I think it’s a good thing that right wingers are more pragmatic. But while the marches and protests have very little impact in the short term, the impression they create of discontent among students (not only to freshers, but also to legislators) will be damaging in the long run. Equally the underrepresented Right are learning to be disaffected by politics as a whole from their out of touch unions – essentially student funded training camps for the Ed Milibands and Bob Crows of the future.
We already know that it’s possible to garner support for a classical liberal narrative. Jennifer Salisbury-Jones was successfully elected as a delegate by Bristol Students on the premise of leaving the NUS and using the money to buy gin. Now an Executive Board Member of Liberty League and Campaign Director (Grassroots) at the TPA, she said “I think libertarian arguments can gain a great deal of traction on campus. It turns out if you tell students that they are adults and you trust them to make their own decisions, that is pretty popular. The student left has the easy answers. It is reactionary, it gives you an establishment to rail against. Our generation are united in suspicion of big government and established institutions, but they are libertarians not marxists.”
I hope this website will provide a platform for views which are all too often hidden under the carpet – an opportunity for debate not only within our own broad church, but with students from across the political spectrum. In just our first edition which will be released throughout the week we have an article in defence of green policy, another on immigration and a discussion on how to encourage house-building.
We want to create as much debate as possible and do so as visibly as possible so there are plenty of ways to share these articles (including the click-to-tweet links dotted around). Please leave comments below and we will encourage all of our authors to respond and carry on the debate! In the interest of free speech, the comments are currently unmoderated and I hope they will be able to remain so! I therefore look forward to all of your criticism for this article and many in the future.