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Members suspended after OUCA's racist hustings

Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA) has been rocked by the allegations of racism with two members of the association already suspended from the National Conservative party.
Cherwell News Team on Monday 15th June 2009
Photograph: Emmanuel Efunbote

The Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA) has been rocked by the allegations of institutional racism, prompting the suspension of two members of the society from the national Conservative party.

The controversy erupted following hustings for the society's elections this week, with candidates asked to tell the most racist joke they knew and what was their least favourite minority.

In response, one of the candidates answered the question with a joke about a black person hanging in a family tree.

The other said, "What do you say when you see a television moving around in the dark?", with only the intervention of the Assistant Returning Officer preventing the racist punchline from being uttered.

The episode has sparked universal outrage, with officials from the national Conservative Party moving to suspend the students from the party within hours of them being notified of the incident.

"We take matters of this kind incredibly seriously," said a Conservative Party spokesman. "People who behave in this disgusting and reprehensible way have no place in the Conservative Party."

A member of the society's committee has resigned from OUCA as a result of the controversy.

Anthony Boutall, the president of the association, admitted that the situation has turned into "a bit of a row". He added, "I don't want this shit hanging around in my term and on my watch, so we're going to have a
 DC to sort it out."

He explained situation saying, "There was a great deal of noise at the OUCA hustings on Sunday. I did not hear a racist joke, but it has come to my attention that something offensive was said.

"A Disciplinary Committee has been called for Saturday and, while I do not have the power to prejudge the decision of the DC, I can give a personal pledge that if these individuals are found guilty, I shall use my powers to their fullest capacity, making it my top priority to ensure that they play no further part in the Association.

"I cannot reiterate strongly enough that OUCA has no place for racism, and abhors and rejects all racial prejudice."

In light of the controversy, Lewis Iwu, President of the Oxford University Students' Union, said he would be submitting an emergency motion to OUSU Council today which if passed would prevent OUCA from attending Fresher's Fair.

"I intend to submit an emergency motion to OUSU Council to make it clear just how disgusted the student community are with these events," he said.

"Oxford University is the most famous and the most fascinating University in the world. However recent events regarding race have created a moral stain on this University's reputation. I seriously believe that Oxford needs a very clear and public strategy on how it intends to be not just reactive to events such those that happened at the OUCA husts but proactive.

"I also call on the Oxford Union to consider whether or not OUCA should be able to use their premises, given what has recently occured there."

The Oxford University Labour Club (OULC) has also canceled a debate they were due to have with OUCA on Monday of 8th week, with a statement issued by the society declaring: "There is no way that we could stand on the same platform with an organisation which advocates racism and bigotry of the most hateful order."

Asked to comment further, OULC co-Chair Jamie Susskind said he was shocked and appalled by the recent events.

"Anthony Boutall looked me in the eye and told me that OUCA had changed. Clearly he was not telling the truth."

He added, "Statements of condemnation by the national Conservative Party are not enough. It is time for Baroness Thatcher to resign as Patron of OUCA, for William Hague to renounce his Honorary Presidency, and for David Cameron to disown this shameful organization."

Michael Howard, the Conservative MP who was to attend OUCA's termly dinner yesterday has cancelled his visit in the light of the events.

It is not the first time that OUCA has attracted negative headlines. In 2004 the ex-Treasurer of the society, Anatole Pang, was found guilty of bringing OUCA into disrepute after posting "offensive" comments about India in a newsletter, whilst in 2000 four members of the association were expelled from a meeting for making "Nazi-style salutes."

The latest allegations have met with mixed reaction from the OUCA membership.

One member described the jokes as "tongue in cheek, ironic would be the word for it...More banter than anything else."

Another member added, "It was loud. The R.O. was getting angry, there 
was loads of yelling...It was a pretty funny situation."

A number of committee members have stated that the Association's hustings have always included non-political questions. "It is somewhat of an OUCA tradition to ask two or three slightly outrageous questions" explained the source, "Everyone who's there expects certain things to go on. It's all in good spirits."

"We sometimes get questions in hustings, ‘What sort of animal would you go to bed with?'", stated committee member, "Unfortunately, it shows how old-fashioned the society is."

Another added, "It goes up upwards by ranks, then you get asked ‘What sort of position would you like to have sex with an animal?' Presidential candidates also get quizzed to name all British territories. We really need to reform OUCA before the elections."

Emmanuel Efunbote, an OUCA member, commented, "This isn't my first Conservative association, I was a member at Durham and King's College and we didn't get things like this."

However he added, "Neither OUCA nor any other Conservative organisation that I have been part of are racist in my own personal experiences."

Danny Buck, an OUCA member, stated the association's need to reform. He said, " I'm willing to attest to peer pressure and the atmospheres at hust having served in them 3 times. The only way I avoided racism was by silliness and that the current president and president elect said a lot worse things... The hidden corruption is that of old school ties and more vitally masonry. We need a new Tory reform group urgently."

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