Giving Better Ideas a Better Platform │ Jack Emsley
I’m aware that the audience I’m reaching by writing for The Mallard will be predominantly card-carrying Conservatives at British universities, so lecturing on the evils of the left and the virtues of the right would probably be a popular direction for this article to take; I do know that preaching to the choir in the relative safety of Conservative echo chambers is a great feeling, good experience, and delivers quick and easy praise from strangers behind a screen (and a good virtual lauding is always a temptation). But I’m not going to do that.
Being a student is about an exchange of ideas, rigorously interrogating principles and policies until we’ve changed our minds, then changed them again, and changed them a third time over. To an extent, we all come to university with beliefs and perceptions that we are so sure we will never relinquish; but if you graduate with those beliefs and perceptions unbattered, unbruised and unchallenged, then you’ve done something wrong. If you’re reading this as a Corbynite, then congratulations, you’re doing university right! If you’re like the other 90%, and reading this as a Conservative, then minimise this tab, go to the Guardian and read an Owen Jones column.
A disclaimer; he’s almost definitely wrong about what he says in that article. But the best way to challenge the left is not, as Theresa May found out this summer, to simply attack and disparage them. It is to understand their ideas, interrogate those ideas, and ultimately to offer better ideas. We all know that the NUS is stifling free speech; that Momentum on campus pose a serious threat to Jewish students; that Corbyn’s promises are economically unachievable. But instead of patting each other on the back every time we show each other a new article proclaiming one of those three things to be true, let’s step back and consider what we achieve by shouting into our echo chamber: will we really be able to effectively challenge the left by never talking to them?
That’s exactly the question we asked ourselves at King’s College, London. The dominance of left wing politics is well known here, whether it’s through the violent protests of the Action Palestine Society, the shameful tactics of KCL Climate Emergency, or the ease with which the Students Union propagate policies which stifle intellectual exchange, debate and free speech. But we realised that we can’t challenge these groups if we emulate them and only talk politics with those that we agree with. We needed to widen our audience, smash the echo chamber and fight the regressive ideas of the hard left with the best tool we possess; better ideas.
On Tuesday, we’ll be launching what will be, to my knowledge, the largest Conservative print publication in circulation at any British University. But it won’t just be another Society magazine on campus; it will never be just an alternative safe space for centre-right students. We’ve reached out to students from across the political spectrum for interesting, thought provoking points of view on issues that ordinarily don’t get properly debated in a university atmosphere like King’s. In the first edition, we have pieces from social democrats, libertarians, conservatives and liberals, all excited to finally have a platform on campus. Not everyone is a card carrying Conservative, but rather they are united behind a common cause; spark debate, challenge orthodoxies and allow everyone to have a voice at King’s.
We’ve created a broad coalition of students, and will after Tuesday reach what we think will be the widest student audience a University Conservative Society has ever had. We haven’t shied away from controversy, we haven’t compromised our ideals, and we haven’t given into that temptation to preach to the choir. By simply offering a platform to students who reject the hard left monopoly at University, we’re proving that having better ideas really is all we need.