Activism, Debate and Friendship in the Durham University Conservative Association

In the second installment of our series on Durham’s political societies, Press Officer Lucy Jackson tells us what being a member of DUCA is really like. You can find the first installment on the UN socierty here and look out in the coming weeks for articles on the Labour Club and the Politics and International Relations Society.

Members of DUCA with Lord Callanan after he spoke at one of their events in January.

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Many young people don’t always enjoy getting involved in politics. Worried that it could give them a stigma, they might offend friends or be judged for their true beliefs, many students tend to steer clear of political societies and keep their thoughts to themselves.

However, in reality university provides the perfect opportunity to gain confidence in your beliefs. Political societies shouldn’t just be closed to politics students and staunch party activists, they should allow a platform for topical discussion and freedom to explore opinions of people with a similar outlook on life.

Durham University Conservative Association, more commonly known as DUCA, is a broad group with exactly this aim; uniting likeminded people with a range of conservative views. In recent times, accusations of exclusivity and lack of diversity have often overshadowed who we truly and what we stand for, but these claims couldn’t be further from the truth. In this article we hope to encourage people to discover more about us, our society and what we stand for; aiming to stimulate your political voice and get involved.

DUCA provides an opportunity to hear from a wide range of voices in our Friday afternoon addresses. From MPs to Lords, our guest speakers provide a range of outlooks on politics today both in Westminster and beyond and give us an opportunity to question those truly involved in the day to day running of the country. To quote a current member: ‘the range, quality and number of speakers we have is something that’s really important in furthering our political education’. Each of these addresses is open to both members and non-members allowing inclusive debate for anyone that is curious and wants to learn more. Upcoming speakers include Sir Graham Brady MP, Chairman of the 1922 Committee and Wendy Morton MP, an Assistant Whip in the Treasury. These promise to be very interesting and relevant for us as students and given the ongoing Brexit events.

It would be difficult to write a political article in the current time without mentioning Brexit, and it is a subject often debated at our policy discussion events. These informal and relaxed evenings allow yet another opportunity to challenge each other’s opinions, often over a drink or two, resulting in some very divided votes on the proposed motions. This healthy, intra-society debate leads to some interesting discussions and DUCA is definitely not afraid to talk about our disagreements. A specific example sure to stick in the minds of many members came at the time of the Prime Minister’s no confidence vote. After an evening of quite heated discussion, many of us ended up agreeing to disagree with one another!

However, it’s not all just party politics. In fact, we are not officially affiliated with the Conservative Party, providing an open platform for diversity in opinions between everyone.

DUCA also strongly believes in community engagement. Our members regularly get involved, giving back to the community in both political and non-political ways. This doesn’t just help those around us but also presents an opportunity for education and an insight into different viewpoints from all of society. From volunteering in the local charity shops of Durham to helping out at Sanctuary 21, we’re not ones to hold back from community action.

Over the last few months, our members that are more interested in the party-political aspect of conservatism have had the opportunity to work with Dehenna Davison Fareham, the Conservative Party candidate for parliament in Bishop Auckland. As a young woman embarking on a political career, she is an inspiring new voice for many of our members as well as local constituents and having the opportunity to work alongside her as part of her campaign is a great opportunity. So far, we have joined her on her campaign trail around Bishop Aukland, talking to local residents about local issues that really matter to them. This embodies another of our core beliefs; to quote another member: ‘For me being a Conservative is about solving problems properly and getting things done. We are in touch with issues – we know how to change, yet we stick to our timeless principles’.

Whilst the main aim of DUCA is to promote political discussion around conservative views, the group also has a flourishing social side that encourages strong friendships between all members. Our wonderful Social Secretary, Sarah, never fails to create a good social, from a classic bailey bar crawl to a 007 themed night of fun, these events show we are definitely not all just dull political chat and certainly know how to have a good time.

Hopefully this article will encourage you to come along to one of our events and meet our amazing members. You really don’t need a high level of political knowledge to get involved, simply curiosity to learn more about politics today from those at the very forefront of policy decision and willingness to discuss each others opinions.

Coming from me personally, I was always quite shy to express my opinions at school and even at the start of university last October, yet here I am just a few months later in the role of Press Officer. For this, I only have the wonderful members of DUCA to thank. Their encouragement to express my opinions and have my say was unwavering and as a result I can truly say they have become great friends. I can’t stress enough how rewarding it can be to get involved in politics at university and hope to see you at one of our events in the future.

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