Alexander Evelyn is the outgoing President of Essex Conservative Future 2013-2014.
My last week at Essex University, as an undergraduate, has provided me with the appropriate time to think and reflect on my three years as a student of Modern History and Politics.
The emergence of a new, muscular, robust and intellectually sound ideology is growing on campus; this is a marked change from The Spectator’s The Truth about Essex article in 1968.
My time at Essex has seen the once universal ideology of students, and still remains the case in some quarters, consisting of identity politics; democracy-dubious; race-hating; debate-hating; issue-hating high tax; high spending; nation hating (but nation wanting with calls for government subsidies and government freebies) world-saving-political-activist become a significantly weaker force on campus. This modus operandi is lazy, conceited and quite frankly ‘ideologically and intellectually flabby’.
The militant-left claim to champion student interests by preventing free speech. This was articulated with a number of boisterous demonstrators preventing the Deputy Israeli Ambassador from speaking to a group of students, studying a Middle East module. And I always operated under the assumption that universities and learning institutions were supposed to be a place of debate and discourse.
The nasty identity politics of “inverse white man’s burden” reared its ugly head with claims the Union flag is a symbol of “Imperialism, Colonialism and Racism”, considering some of the proponents of the flag were proud international citizens from Commonwealth countries and beyond. The outright rejection of Starbucks on campus for some of its “alleged” practices saw the victory in favour led to accusations the vote was fixed by the democracy-dubious left, who only like their way when it comes to democracy! I could continue with the other aspects of their ideology put into practice without consideration or thought for others, but I think the point has been represented sufficiently.
You could be mistaken for thinking a new dynamism has not taken root with the current description presented. However, there are a small group of radicals – among whom I’d include myself – that are attempting to shift the climate of opinion on campus and give the silent majority a muscular voice. This is a more pragmatic, real-world, level-headed, patriotic, freedom-loving revolution. These ‘New Radicals’ could be associated with the ideas proposed in ‘Britannia Unchained’, a book published by 5 rising stars in the Conservative parliamentary party (including Priti Patel who is MP for Witham and Essex University CF Honorary President), which argues for a strong, proud and confident nation.
The success of the New Radicals has seen the Students Union held to account and guaranteed value for money for students. We have also put forward motions to the Students Representative Forum, such as one on the Union flag which was lost by seven votes. This caused outrage through the campus bars and calls to approach the University itself, which were to no avail due to bureaucratic inertia. We also campaigned vigorously to get Starbucks as a vendor on campus, winning by 74 votes. The first 24 hours of Starbucks on campus raised £1,200 to the Student Union coffers, which could go some way to filling the annual black hole suffered by the Union – they can thank us later, I guess!
I must confess, however, there have been some benefits to having the militant-left on campus. They have made my fellow comrades and I more confident in what we believe, and have encouraged us to stay true to our values and fight for them at every opportunity! Sorry, Mum, I haven’t turned left or even flirted with the left, and I’m afraid these people have confirmed the decision I made in 2007.
As I approach the end of my last week as an undergraduate at the University of Essex I think of the wise words Margaret Thatcher uttered which guides our thinking: “Marxists get up early to further their cause. We must get up even earlier to defend our freedom.” This renewed gusto has led to the rise of the New Radicals ideologically inspired and learning from the first principles of freedom, choice and opportunity. The story of the first fifty years at Essex has put leftist dogma over people. I am confident the next fifty has the potential to put individuals, the student community and real debate at the centre of an institution founded of intellectual rigour and endurance.