The Oxford Conservative Association (OCA) is launching a new policy document highlighting concerns regarding inequality and social mobility this week.
The Executive Summary of the policy document states, “the most damaging divide [is] between those who can afford choice and those who cannot”. The stated aims are to “analyse the problems faced by people from disadvantaged backgrounds” and “examine possible solutions to reduce inequality and promote social mobility in the UK”.
Members celebrated the imminent launch of the first policy document since Thatcher headed up the association by throwing a lavish dinner party at a highly exclusive Private Members Club in London on Tuesday night.
The Facebook group for the event states, “As we move towards putting out our OCA Policy Document on Education and Social Mobility (working title!) we will be having some drinks, including a champagne reception, at the Landsdowne Club with one of our favourite up-and-coming members of a future Tory government.”
Hannah Cusworth, Co-Chair of OULC commented, “It’s good that OCA are addressing issues of social depravity in their new policy document. However, it is bizarre that they chose to launch this policy over a lavish dinner at a private club in London. I don’t think this will do much dispel the image that they are an exclusive group of people.
“But that’s just their attitude…If they understood anything about social depravation they would not launch their policy document in this way.”
The policy document was written by the Oxford Conservative Policy Forum (OCPF), which is closely tied to OCA.
Oliver Harvey, President of OCA, explained that the policy launch was part of an effort to move away from OCA’s traditional image, “We have had a serious problem denying the stereotype of OCA as a private club for public school boys. But OCA has been very strong, and we came out of the crisis last year with a realisation that change needs to happen”.
Harvey continued, “I think the society is extremely inclusive. We are trying to get away from the perception that this is an exclusive wannabe social club.”
Max Lewis, Chairman of OCPF, explained that the policy document is primarily a “discussion document”, which investigates the social problems facing Britain using anecdotal and statistical evidence, and then proposes solutions based on this analysis. It concludes that education is crucial for the struggle against social deprivation.
Lewis was keen to emphasise the impact this document could have at a national level.
“What is fundamental about this is that we have been liaising closely with the central Conservative Party. We are presenting our findings to a number of Think Tanks who have produced a lot of Conservative Party policy in the past. We have also arranged to meet with Kenneth Clarke, and we will hand the document over to him on behalf of OCA. It is likely that our policy document will be welcomed and considered alongside the findings from any independent group.”
The speaker at the event was MP Tim Loughton, Shadow Minister for Children, School and Families. He was hosted in the famous Lansdowne Club in Mayfair, which charges a membership fee of £700 per annum for “town membership” plus a one off joining fee of £520. During dinner six portions of Foie Gras were served, as well as three bottles of Vega Merlot and a further three bottles of Chablis.
Loughton joined members of OCA for drinks in the Adam Room, followed by dinner. Following the dinner, Tim Loughton gave a talk in the Sun Room, which usually costs £410 to hire for the day.
Loughton explained that he had been invited to the Lansdowne to have a “quiet little chat about child policy”. However, since he thought that discussing child issues would be too “dull and gory at this time of night” he spoke instead about the Channel Four programme that he recently featured in, where he was filmed staying with various deprived families on a council estate in Birmingham. He discussed his experiences on the estate, describing one apartment that he stayed in as a “complete crap hole”.
Lewis expressed anger at the levels of social mobility on the UK, “Fundamentally, we are angry that this society has failed so many people. We are angry that when you walk around Oxford, virtually everyone is from a higher socio-economic class. We think its appalling that people have no way of leaving the cycle of poverty and fulfilling their dreams in life. We Care. OCA cares, that so many people are trapped in a really awful situation. The Conservative Party does have an obligation to help people in society.”
Oliver Harvey was contacted for comment on the choice of the Landsowne club for the speaker event relating to the social mobility policy document, but he declined to comment.
The Lansdowne Club describes itself as a “haven of tranquillity…set in the heart of Mayfair”. It became famous during the 1920s, when it was leased to Gordon Selfridge, the department store magnate. With his tenants, the Hungarian Cabaret Artistes known as “The Dolly Sisters”, the house became renowned for its dancing parties. In 1782, Prime Minister Shelburne conceded independence to the United States, under the Treaty of Paris, which drawn up with Benjamin Franklin in the Round Room of the Lansdowne Club.
The last time a policy document was produced was over fifty years ago. The formal launch of the policy document will take place next Wednesday.