Elliot E. G. Jordan is a First year student from England and who studies History and Russian. He says he joined RO UK because of his fascination with US politics and support for conservative politics globally. In addition to Social Secretary of RO, he is East of Scotland Chair of Conservative Future Scotland and Policy and Publications Officer of the St Andrews University Conservative and Unionist Association.
When we organised our celebration event of the inauguration of President Trump, we were faced with a choice: to make it a private event known only to our members and thus avoid the protests against perceived injustice that have been seen across the world recently, or to make it a public event and to take our chances with potentially strong opposition. Ultimately when we made that choice, it was in the hope that we would have an opportunity to positively engage with the anti-Trump factions present in the St Andrews’ political environment, so that we could mutually share our ideas about the issues facing our world and better understand our respective angles on them.
In an age when people will all too often attempt to shut down their opponent through accusations of hate speech, any civilised discussion of political values seemed highly unlikely and in the days running up to the event, we were worried that it would be endangered by the factions describing us as ‘Nazis’, ‘right-wing extremists’ and ‘crypto-fascists’ on social media and vowing to shut down the meeting and prevent us from carrying out our celebration. Fortunately this did not happen, thanks mainly to the owner of Aikmans, who made it clear that he wanted the evening to be about intelligent interchange on both sides, along with the ‘protestors’ who were able to join together with the pro-Trump faction to produce a fantastic evening from which we both came away better off.
One only has to read the article written by the student paper The Stand to see just how amazing and unexpected this was- not only could self-described ‘socialists’ and ‘anti-fascists’ be seen and heard talking to our people, but we were able to agree on many topics and even where we didn’t, it was a refreshing change to discuss based on policy rather than name-calling. It sounds unimaginable in 2017, but it happened, and I have yet to speak to anyone who failed to marvel at the results. At RO we are therefore considering the evening to be a great success- we took a real gamble in opening the event to those who would see us imprisoned rather than openly supporting Trump, and yet it paid off.
A university should be a place for free speech and debate even if all others have been shut down, and I think it’s fair to say that we and the more open minded elements of the Socialist Society and their followers see the other night as a great restoration of faith in the democratic process. As Social Secretary of the society, I and our Chairman Drew Liquerman can only thank the elements of the opposition that decided to come in and engage with us and also Malcolm Ritchie, the owner of Aikmans, without whom the gathering could never have been possible- and he definitely summed it up best when he said that what we achieved was ‘one of the awesome and most gratifying nights we’ve had’, which deserves recognition throughout this entire debate’.
We can’t wait for the next one!
Elliot E. G. Jordan