‘On Friday of 7th week, the fateful day arrived: the day Liz Truss came to give her first ever speech at Oxford University since her graduation….’ Jeannie McGuinness comments on Liz Truss’ appearance at last terms’ OUCA event.
On Friday of 7th week, the fateful day arrived: the day Liz Truss came to give her first ever speech at Oxford University since her graduation. While not being the biggest fan of the Conservative Party myself, I ventured into the Town Hall with an open mind. I was hesitant to judge the Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA) too soon, although this resolve may not have lasted quite as long as I might’ve hoped.
While the event was scheduled to begin at 5:20pm, Truss herself didn’t appear until around 6. Although this felt like the strangest waiting-room in existence, with all my fellow patients either decked out in three-piece suits or some sort of beige chino and quarter-zip combo, the wait wasn’t too much of a burden…
I had the pleasure of being joined by someone who seemed to be part of the OUCA inner circle (of the chino variety rather than the three-piece suit— playing it cool), who kindly explained to me the events of Truss’ brief premiership, or as some call it, the political equivalent to Kim Kardashian’s 72-day marriage. I can see why he felt the need to educate me in this way, considering I had signed myself up to be on the press bench for the event— why would I do this unless I was utterly clueless on the matter? A cynic may consider this explanation to have been unnecessary and patronising. I’d certainly like to say I was shocked by this lengthy interaction, but it had me feeling more resignedly disappointed than surprised — ‘where does he get the audacity?’, do we really need to ask? At the time, I just nodded along agreeably like some sort of left-wing hostage, my only regret being that I didn’t really mix things up by asking why we can’t just print more money.
As Truss walked onto the stage, she was met with a standing ovation from her adoring fans. Her performance began with a speech, which was followed by questions from the president of the society (Franek Bednarski) and then rounded off with more questions from the audience. Throughout, Truss eerily reminded me of an (extremely) amateur comedian, consistently name-calling those who disagree with her politically, as if picking on the left-leaning minority in the crowd, labeling them as ‘lefties’, ‘the left-wing woke brigade of Oxford’, and ‘trans-extremists’ (the list could go on). This was met with laughter from many in the audience, yet it seemed a weak attempt at winning popularity points to me. Each nickname she gave increased my frustration, at how divisive she was making politics seem to a group of students, but more so at how her horrendous jokes were being mistaken for comedy gold by some members of the audience. If only she had been standing in front of a brick wall, holding a microphone, her stand up comedy set would’ve been complete. Maybe next time, hey?
Even better, she went on to share her deepest, darkest desires: to ‘get on with fracking’ and bring about the ‘Conservative intellectual revival’. Yes, this dream of hers is just as vague as it sounds. From what I could gather, Truss believes that increasing the amount of books, articles and research that are available to the public will help to bring about a better version of our current society. And we’re in for a treat— as intellectual Oxford students, we are essential to the creation of said resources. I’m not sure what those struggling under the crushing weight of the cost-of-living crisis are going to do with a few articles written by a handful of over-privileged Oxbridge students and Liz Truss, but maybe that’s just me; as chino guy earlier suggested, I clearly don’t know a thing about politics.
Towards the end of the audience’s Q&A, the heavily anticipated topic of the current Israel/Palestine conflict was brought to the table: ‘are you a zionist?’. To this, Truss nervously sipped her water before nodding and giving a simple ‘yes’, although not directly into the microphone. This extremely reductive answer to a complex and sensitive issue was met with enthusiastic applause, especially from those on the front benches, and it became clear that my time as an audience member had run its course. Packing up my things and feeling like I had just taken part in some sort of absurd social experiment, I left the Town Hall a little early, eager to put some distance between myself and the lettuce lady.Despite the fact that I certainly felt out of place in this particular crowd, I am glad that I was able to attend this event. And credit must be given where credit is due— the event ran smoothly and seemed very well organised, with security taking their jobs very seriously. Sometimes, it is important to remove yourself from the echo chamber of those close to you, who may very well agree with you politically. Even if It’s a case of pulling an ‘I’m not really here it’s research. I’m Louis Theroux. I’m Louis Theroux’, it is undoubtedly valuable to hear other people’s perspectives, even if they end up just reaffirming your own.