St John’s JCR passed a motion to create a centre-left caucus on Sunday 9 November, after the original motion was drastically amended to eradicate any political preference from the Society.
The ‘Keeping up with the Balliols’ motion, so-called because of Balliol’s well-known Left Caucus, was proposed by co-Chair Elect of the Oxford University Labour Club, David Cesar- Heymann. Pledging to give £200, the motion intended to create “a space in college where students can be politically engaged” with speakers and the publication of a magazine.
Cesar-Heymann argued that the JCR’s recent decision to give money to support the Free Education demonstration, while simultaneously rejecting the principle of Free Education, showed that John’s valued people’s ability to express their opinion even if they disagreed with the opinion itself.
The motion was attacked for fear that it would appear like the JCR was endorsing a political party, despite backers’ insistence that the motion was explicitly worded to avoid this.
An amendment from the floor was proposed to remove the phrase ‘centre-left’ from the Society’s title, effectively creating just a politics society. After Cesar-Heymann demanded a recount, the amendment passed 19 votes to 17.
The JCR overwhelmingly supported the creation of the society but questioned whether it required financial backing. Access and Equal Opportunities Officer Flora Sheldon argued that, as the funding available for her position was also £200, it seemed “disproportionate” to value a political society to the same extent as access and equal opportunities.
Countering Sheldon, Cesar-Heymann reminded the JCR that it holds a subscription for The Telegraph costing £200, which is allegedly unused. The vote to give the newly founded society £200 passed contentiously 17 votes to 15.
Speaking to Cherwell after the vote, Cesar- Heymann was “very happy with the motion that passed by a practically unanimous vote”, adding that he was already focused in bringing in speakers.
He added, “I’d be happy to help anyone interested in setting up another discussion group under the caucus umbrella.”
Several members, however, suggested that societies should only receive JCR money when there was strong enough evidence of sufficient interest by college members.
The motion requires the caucus to submit a yearly report to the Secretary, meaning it is likely to continue to attract scrutiny from the JCR.