Ah student politics: is there anything quite like it? The strange creatures it attracts, the passions it unleashes, the adolescent ambition and the glorious pettiness of it all; so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small. Such an ignoble tradition has spawned many of our lords and masters – Boris Johnson was an unabashed Union hack at Oxford while William Hague was ‘convicted of electoral malpractice’ in one election of the Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA).
And having spent some time recently in the Cambridge University archives, Mr S is delighted to see the route from the common room to the Commons is still alive and well. For perusing copies of the Varsity student newspaper, Steerpike stumbled across an explosive story from May 2000, the front page splash no next. ‘Conservatives in corruption crisis’ the headline screamed, along with a prominent photo of a 20-year-old smiling student by the name of Suella Fernandes. Who was this aspiring lawyer? Why, none other than our current own Attorney-General, Suella Braverman.
Back then the government’s principal legal adviser had just been elected head of OUCA’s counterpart, CUCA. Her ascendancy to the chairmanship though was not without incident; for Varsity quotes an undergraduate as claiming Braverman tried to buy her vote, offering to ply him with pints and CUCA membership in the society’s election. The student hacks tried to front up the ‘clearly uncomfortable’ Braverman about such claims, with the awkward encounter beginning with her claiming the accusations were ‘completely untrue’ and ‘I’m not ready to disclose the internal affairs of CUCA’ followed by a ‘long silence’ ending with her asserting ‘you can’t prove anything.’
What a scoop! Unfortunately for the outlet in question, humiliation followed triumph just a week later when the next edition dropped. For a grovelling front-page retraction had to be printed by Varsity, with the student hacks forced to admit that labelling the allegations made against Braverman as ‘vote-rigging’ may ‘have implied a precise form of behaviour which we did not intend.’