Port and Policy: A night of debauchery with the Conservative society
Someone said ‘feminism is the worst thing in society’
Port and Policy is the Nottingham University Conservative Association’s termly social which aims to recreate a parliamentary style debate, twinned with drinking excessive amounts of port and having an excuse to dress up in full black tie and cocktail dresses.
I was told by my friends it was a raucous affair of the worst drunk private school boys getting lairy and spouting offensive words that would make Katie Hopkins look reasonable. So I went to one to find out whether this was in any way true.
Turns out, it kinda was. Quotes from the evening included:
“The British Public are way too stupid”
“Feminism is the worst thing in society”
“I would rather hire a man than a woman”
“Women will never be employers”
and one of them referred to a bus as a “pleb-wagon”.
Before the debates started I thought I would mingle around the room to gauge the kind of people present for tonight. I was met with firm handshakes and incredibly pleasant chit chat – a friendlier welcome than any other society I’ve been to. I expected to dislike them from the start, but I didn’t.
There was something clearly evident though. Out of the 40 plus attending (apparently a record number for Port and Policy) there was a distinct lack of diversity.
There was a small handful of women and only one person who wasn’t white. This would become blatant when the debates started. One female committee member even said it was a “sausage fest” “and is “not the kind of place you want to try and pull at”.
I found a small Labour group hiding in the corner of the room, they decided to go against the dress code and adorn jeans and a jacket. This attire was later insulted during a debate on the Junior Doctor strikes.
Personal attacks are not uncommon towards the opposition during the debates. As I was being told this the president smashed his hammer to gather everyone’s attention to say “please may you all take your seats, the first motion is about to begin”.
The rules were simple. If you agree with what someone is saying you slam your fist on the table repeatedly, or give a respectful “hear hear”. If you disagree you yell “shame!” at them until you can’t hear them anymore.
The first of three motions was about the Junior Doctor strikes. The debate for its entirety was very well versed from all sides. The president said it was “the best first motion they have had”, during the break between motions, “usually it’s really awkward, I guess people aren’t drunk enough yet”.
The second was a hot topic for any Tory, the European Union, more specifically the success or failure of the PM’s negotiations. This volatile subject matter combined with the copious port consumption truly kick-started the evening. The waving of flags and screams of “God save the queen” greeted the EU’s “undemocratic dictatorship” over Britain, comparisons were made to Adolf Hitler in WW2.
This fuelled nationalistic chants – “good riddance to Scotland” – a Labour student was shamed for being Irish. The only non white person who hailed from Spain said “people are bordering on xenophobic remarks”. After the motion was passed everyone raised their glasses to English sovereignty before going for a break. The most controversial debate was yet to come.
In the recess, I managed to grab the opinion of an attending Green Party student who described some members of the Port and Policy crowd as, “racists that can’t formulate their own opinion” and “Bullingdon Club wannabes”. As committee placed more alcohol on the tables before the final debate (you were always within arms length of at least two full bottles of port) one of the more zealous speakers of the EU motion came up to me and said: “Don’t quote what I said Joe, I want to be a barrister one day.”
The third and final debate: feminism. This really turned ugly.
Feminism was shamed instantly. People sighed at the use of rape statistics and the President of the society covered the mouth of a female speaker three times during the debate, silencing her. God and female biology was brought in ad hoc.
The girl next to me disagreed with everything the guys were saying but told me she was too scared to stand up and speak against them. When one brave female member stood up to argue it was blatant nobody was listening to what she was actually saying. One male member said: “at least she’s fit though”.
Half of the slumped Tory eyelids fell dull at this point, minds and bottles were looking empty, but the rest ranted and preached on behalf of all women. Jokes about rape and paedophilia broke out. Guffaws, groans and grumbles accented statements like “feminism is enforced inequality” and “feminism is nothing”.
Tonight’s debate was drawing to a hazy conclusion.
The final roars and slamming of fists echoed through the Great Hall after the final motion, “feminism is a detriment to society”, passed with an overwhelming majority. People pushed themselves up from their seats and made their way out.
There was a strange sense of justice in the air, like all the problems in society had been solved and it was time to head to Mooch and Coco Tang.
Committee and a few others stayed behind to clear up the mess. Two musical members pulled off the cover off a grand piano and started improvising jazz. Blissful music filled the room, making a stark contrast to the dissonant drunk debate that had taken over the rest of the evening.
The President said to me, as he hastily gathered six empty port bottles into his hands, the night was a complete success, and maybe the best the society has ever had. He disagreed with me on the fact women were afraid to get involved in the debates and that things had got out of hand.
Once the hall was cleared everyone stumbled their way through the cold February night towards Mooch to wait for taxis to Coco Tang. Someone fell to the ground and was helped back up by his fellow Conservative comrades, while a couple continued a tense argument about rape which continued all the way into Mooch.
There was time for one more drink, even though I don’t think they needed it, before heading for cocktails at Coco Tang. Everyone was joyous, the politics had stopped and it was just like any other society social. Well, except people were wearing bow ties and bowler hats. I even overheard the bar staff say to each other “who the hell are these guys?”, “Oh it’s the Conservatives, isn’t it obvious?”
They even broke a sink in Mooch. Taxis arrived. I clambered into one with three Tories, who had no change on them so I had to pay the fare with them promising they would buy me a drink when we got to Coco Tang – they didn’t. I thanked the committee for the evening and being so welcoming.
I genuinely enjoyed the evening. Put aside the misogyny and sexism, the xenophobia and celebration of white privilege, it was a great event.
I would highly recommend going, it is a spectacle everyone should witness.
Alfie Cranmer, President of the UoN Conservative Association said: “We are strong believers in uncensored free speech and this event is meant to represent this – as a Chair of the debate I do not seek to interrupt or stop people from making their speeches, however controversial, although I would absolutely and most certainly draw the line at purely sexist or racist remarks.
“The ‘I would rather hire a man than a woman’ comment was actually part of a discussion of how maternity leave can make women less appealing to employers – one suggestion was to increase paternity leave to level the playing field. Likewise, the ‘people are bordering on xenophobic remarks’ comment was made by my housemate in the debate on the EU, and he said it as a joke because he is Spanish, afterwards accepting that nothing xenophobic was actually said.”
“These were all genuine views of the individuals who spoke at the debate, and it is not for me to comment on them as they do not represent Conservatism or the Association, but are individual views.”