As the weather compounds in unpleasantness, the reality of January collections begins to dawn, and the inauguration of one Donald J Trump draws nearer, there’s scarcely been a better time to knock back a mulled wine, scoff a mince pie or two (or three), and watch dreadful Hugh Grant films on endless repeat to coax one’s mind off of politics.
The temptation at this point is to wax lyrical, along with just about everyone else, about what a tumultuous year 2016 turned out to be. Plenty has been said and plenty remains to be said about Brexit, US politics, and whether there is an ongoing paradigm shift against globalisation. I will spare you those thoughts for now. Of more immediate importance to your President is the not-insubstantial task of putting the finishing touches on the term card for Hilary as it hurtles towards us at some impossible speed.
The trouble with planning things in politics is, as Macmillan allegedly put it, “events, dear boy, events”. Building on the success of last term’s campaigning away days to Bath, Cambridge, and Sherwood, we had provisionally lined up three more Tory escapades around the country with a focus on expected priority areas for the Party. Then Labour MP Jamie Reed announced that he would be resigning his Cumbria seat in the new year, throwing the spanner of yet another by-election into the works.
Mr Reed, one of Corbyn’s outspoken critics (I hear there are a few), has a slender majority of 2,564, and this means the seat will suddenly become a national campaigning priority at some point in early February. We’re determined to do our bit, so we’ll be fundraising and planning our transport in the coming weeks to make sure a strong OUCA battalion is deployed north to return another excellent Conservative voice to Parliament.
Marginally easier to plan are OUCA’s events held on home turf, like our famous weekly Port and Policy debates. You might think that the formula “Port + Debate = Success” is a law of nature, and you wouldn’t be far wrong, but there’s a surprising amount of work that has to go on behind the scenes. One of the more ironic effects of the Leave vote, to my mind, was the sharp increase in the price of port from our Portuguese suppliers; sourcing our members' fortified wine of choice is now a somewhat subtler matter than before. Our members may rest assured that the port will continue to flow next term, and developments in politics will continue to provide a steady stream of topical debate motions for you to enjoy.
Fortunately, the Committee for next term looks set to be almost frighteningly competent and efficient, so I have every faith that the Association will continue to go from strength to strength. This notwithstanding, accountability and transparency remain crucial to the proper management of our organisation as much as they are in any democracy - I highly recommend to any members interested in the workings of OUCA to attend meetings of Council and ask the Officers questions about their work. Alternatively, feel free at any point to email me any concerns, suggestions, or enquiries about our activities, and I will address these in Council as part of my business.
That’s all for now. I shall leave you to write your Christmas cards and wrap your presents, and look forward to seeing you in the New Year.
President, Brasenose College