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December 06, 2013

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Igor Belanov

We should be encouraged. It was the coupling of the worldwide campaigns by lefties with the ANC's struggle that established Mandela's reputation and has forced the likes of Cameron to pay tribute to him, rather than call him a terrorist as Cameron's predecessors did in the 80s.

nick s

rather than call him a terrorist as Cameron's predecessors did in the 80s.

ITYM "as Cameron did in the 1980s". He was a leading member of the Federation of Conservative Students that circulated a "Hang Mandela" poster in the mid-80s, and went on a sanctions-busting junket to South Africa when he worked at Tory Central Office in 1989.

David Weman

Strange emphasis in the article on Mandela's "nonviolent" example.

BenSix

He was a leading member of the Federation of Conservative Students...

I have seen no evidence that he was a member, never mind a leading one.

Dan Hardie

Seconding BenSix - I've seen no evidence of Cameron being in the FCS, and I rather doubt that nick s can produce any. John Bercow was in the FCS in their heyday, and his biography goes into some detail about the young enthusiasts' harmless penchant for singing UDA and UVF songs, lauding the Shankill Butchers, etc.

According to one of his biographers, Cameron did, however, go on a freebie to South Africa back in apartheid days, and if he gets some grief for this, fine.

dsquared

I rather doubt that he would have been in the FCS - the Oxford Tories aren't affiliated to the national student party, so one would have had to go out of one's way to do so. But the Oxford University Conservative Association are and were quite bad enough (and those drinking clubs, oyyy), so I wouldn't be underwriting any insurance against the possibility of something really embarrassing turning up.

The "freebie" to South Africa was a little bit more compromising than just a safari and booze-up though - it was arranged by the regime's PR firm (in fact, google tells me that the point person was Derek Laud, the reality show contestant and general oddity).

The New Statesman "debunking" of the poster claim, though, claims that Cameron was "largely apolitical" during his whole time at university, which makes it more than a little bit odd that his first job out of college was at Conservative Central Office.

ajay

claims that Cameron was "largely apolitical" during his whole time at university, which makes it more than a little bit odd that his first job out of college was at Conservative Central Office.

And, indeed, that he was a member of the Oxford University Conservative Association. I can't think of anyone I knew in any of the student political societies whom I would describe as "largely apolitical".

Dan Hardie

Yes, it was a government-organised trip, which makes it pretty disgraceful. I have little doubt that there were meetings with opposition or semi-opposition figures, just as a figleaf, and there will be a certain readiness among the lobby hacks to accept this as evidence that the trip was quite justifiable.

It's extraordinary to remember just how mainstream support for apartheid was among many, probably most, 1980s Tories, particularly the older generations. When Max Hastings took over from Bill Deedes as editor of the Telegraph in (I think) 1986, one of the first changes he made was to declare the paper's opposition to apartheid, which previously the Telegraph had enthusiastically endorsed in its editorials. Letters poured in enquiring whether the Telegraph was now being edited from Moscow, announcing solidarity with our kith and kin in South Africa, etc...

Phil

I don't know about OUCA, but my impression of CUCA was that it was one among a number of places where horrible privileged people could get drunk, make awful jokes and bray at each other. (See also: Cambridge Union.) I suppose I would have thought Simon Heffer (CUCA) was a bit more political than Julie Kirkbride (Union) or Bernard Jenkin (was shagging a girl who lived nextdoor to a friend of mine), but only in the sense that the political hacks were a bit more grey and boring than the pure posh boys - they certainly weren't any more Conservative. So maybe Cameron "wasn't political" in the sense of not actually bothering to put any work in - it was all about the gang membership.

dsquared

Not buying that. You don't fall into a job in party headquarters on a policy development unit by accident. If you're a "not political" OUCA Tory, you end up in the City, particularly if the last three generations of your family have been partners at Panmure Gordon.

dsquared

I don't know about OUCA, but my impression of CUCA was that it was one among a number of places where horrible privileged people could get drunk, make awful jokes and bray at each other.

Although I totes agree with this bit, which is why I'm not writing any reputational indemnity insurance against the possibility that one of those awful jokes might have been a satirical version of the "Free Nelson Mandela" song which might turn up one day. As yet, however, none has, so it's in the realm of pure speculation, and as Dan says, the public facts are what they are so there's no need to exaggerate them.

ajay

I admit proudly that I am reasoning ahead of my data in that I didn't actually know anyone who was in OUCA.

Phil

If you're a "not political" OUCA Tory, you end up in the City

Works for Bernard Jenkin, also Simon Brocklebank-Fowler (who lived nextdoor to a different friend of mine - we just thought he was an idiot). Per Wikipedia, Julie Kirkbride spent so long outside active politics she almost looks like a sleeper (Labour landslide alert - mobilise Kirkbride!) - and then there's Boris, of course. So OK, point taken - you don't go straight into real-world Conservative politics unless you've been grinding away pretty hard at the pretend variety.

Phil

I didn't actually know Simon Heffer, I hasten (really quite hastily) to add - and he's the only name that comes out when I put 'CUCA' into the mental search engine.

Thirty-one years ago or thereabouts I bumped into the deputy editor of Stop Press on Jesus Lane (the editor was Andrew Rawnsley); we chatted briefly & she made a jokey comment about the awful quality of my latest contribution to the paper*. I was, at this point in my life, very very very shy, and had a girlfriend; the thought that there might be other women out there capable of taking a friendly interest in me freaked me out totally. I went home quite quickly and never went back to Stop Press (except to go to their end-of-term party; I still remember the sight of Andrew Rawnsley dancing in a white suit). I'm reminded of this Adrian Mole-ish episode every time I see the dep. ed.'s name in print - which seems to happen every few years, like a comet. That was My Cambridge - boldly aiming for the heights, then sneaking out the back before anyone noticed me.

*Or maybe I misread the entire situation and she was actually telling me it was awful. That wouldn't be so bad.

Richard J

The only two Tory MPs I know from my time at college [1] both had absolutely nothing to do with OUCA, AFAIK, while they were there. One of them was a member of Piers Gaveston mind.

Everybody in my time at Oxford involved with OUCA probably fucked their political career up by having a teenage girl magazine invited along to report on an appallingly drunken dinner with the Hamiltons.

(As it appears I've said before.)

http://bloodandtreasure.typepad.com/blood_treasure/2011/11/dashing-through-the-reich.html

[1] And drank champagne with one of them on the morning of my 21st.

nick s

Wrists duly slapped over the FCS thing.

The OUCA tribe of my generation included Damian Collins MP, but not many others as far as I can tell: a few civil servants like Lindy Cameron, but mostly City milkround fodder. Liz Truss was an OUSU hack Lib Dem at the time.

One Union/OUCA hack who went straight into Tory Central Office was Sheridan Westlake, who's currently Spad to Eric Pickles; I remember him as a man who had no real ideology other than his own self-advancement via the coat-tails of others.

ajay

I remember him. If I'd been asked, back then, "If you were a vengeful and angry God - and also into making the punishment fit the crime, like Dante or the Mikado - what fate would you visit on Sheridan Westlake?" I would have said "Let him be -- a Spad to Eric Pickles! [maniacal laugh]"

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