Following the election of Charles Amos as incumbent KCLCA President in April and his tumultuous removal from office in May, the Conservative Association has begun a second election to find its new leader. Roar sat down with nominees Laszlo Ori and Anastasiia Katona to talk about the previous election, their campaign manifestos, and the current state of UK politics.
Charles Amos & the First Election
On the subject of the first 2020/2021 KCLCA election and its victor, candidate Laszlo Ori had a lot to say. “There is Charles, and there is Philip [Brenninkmeyer], and they are both running for President. Charles wins because he’s an honest guy. People liked his honesty, and he was a character and was always present. People thought that he’d make a great President. […] He’s a very honest person, so people trust him. I believe that he follows his ideology way too much. I disagree with him on a lot of things, but people generally find him to be a very nice guy when they know him in person. I’ve heard this from a lot of acquaintances of mine.
“So he wins. Then what he does is he makes Philip his Vice President, which was, of course, a very big mistake, especially if you think of political strategy, so… you don’t do that if you read Art of War, so – you don’t keep your opponents very close to you. But Charles did that because he believed that our society lacked unity. There was this core that controlled our society, and Charles, with his whole election campaign – he understood that unity is needed to run a society smoothly – he was right.”
Anastasiia, Social Media Secretary for the KCLCA following the previous election, sees things somewhat differently. “Well, I think the election was obviously 100% democratic, but it was different to what we usually do. Usually, members meet to vote and obviously it happens face to face. This one was entirely online. […] And what followed, well – we removed Charles because his actions crossed a line, and the members weren’t happy about it, and we listened to that. We felt like it was going to harm the society.”
Laszlo Ori – “Let’s Restore the Integrity of the KCLCA Together!”
Laszlo told us his primary goal is twofold: to restore the image of the KCLCA before growing the society and improve it. Laszlo believes that the latter cannot happen without the former. Chief on his list of ideal changes is making the Association’s constitution publically accessible.
“You cannot access our constitution without asking the Committee members. There’s no political organisation that does not have a public constitution. Of course, they send you the constitution if you ask for it. […] I read the constitution – then, later, I realised, ‘wow, things are not happening according to the constitution – so let’s ask for the constitution again.’ I asked for the constitution, and they sent me a different document. They changed it without notifying anyone. […] If the rules are not clear, a society cannot function in the long term.”
Laszlo also wants to continue the Association’s history of debates. “Our debates were very edgy. There was a diversity of opinion, and people could express those opinions between the boundaries of civility. This is, I think, what is really fascinating about the Conservative Association at King’s, and why I find it to be the most interesting society. We accept, we tolerate different opinions, and we debate issues that are not accepted in other societies. For example, we have done debates about abortion. Can you imagine [pro/contra] debates about abortion in the Lib Dem society, or in the Labour society? No way.
“[…] Charles has been attacked for statements that are not necessarily from an evil source.” While Laszlo believes that some of the statements Charles has made are “disgusting”, he also feels that “some of them might have been taken out of context, and some of them were purely from the logical consequences of keeping free speech or free debate [sic.]. He has not put any moral judgements to those statements.”
Laszlo is also a proponent of more black-tie dinners and events for KCLCA members. When asked his opinion on the perception expressed by some outsiders that these events are elitist, he told us that “I don’t know what is wrong to do things that are just fun [sic.]. I understand the issue. Mostly we enjoy black tie events, dress up fancy. That’s why […] most societies organise some black-tie events at the end of the term. It is not there for elitist reasons, it’s just a fun activity that people enjoy.”
Lastly, Laszlo would like to form a union of London-based Conservative Associations, as a form of outreach. “Something similar already exists but does not work very well. [What I want to implement] is more like a union to bring in high-profile speakers. […] Rather than organising events inviting hosts to King’s, to Imperial, to Warwick even, it’s better to invite bigger names and to host an event together. High profile names, they would not come to King’s just to talk to thirty or forty students.”
Anastasiia Katona – “Greater Transparency, Inclusivity, and Unity”
Anastasiia’s manifesto emphasises a policy of transparency, and so following our conversation with Laszlo, one of the first things we asked her was how she views the Association’s current policy in regard to its constitution.
“Well, I think, you know, you must be careful when listening to members who aren’t internal to the constitutional changes that were being made – and there were only two of them, actually, they’re not made every day. The old constitution, that is readily available on the website, that each new committee has to revisit the constitution and make it better. The thing I will say about the constitution is it’s available on request not because the committee’s some sort of secretive organisation. […] I would make it public as well, [but it’s available on request] because past presidents still have control of the two websites that exist. […] The keys to those websites were never handed over, so all our websites are out of date.”
If she comes out on top, Anastasiia would also like to seek a clarification on the guidelines of the KCLSU’s Safe Space Policy. “I have nothing against it, obviously. I think there’s a reason why it’s there.” Anastasiia also believes that the protection of free speech on campus is important, “especially for a society that’s so strong on debating [sic.]. But I would like to know how the SU Safe Space Policy works with that. I want to make things clear so that if anything else comes up in the society we’re able to deal with it better internally.”
On the topic of free speech in general, Anastasiia told us that “I am completely pro-free speech, but I believe the problem with Charles wasn’t that he was exercising free speech ‘to its limits,’ if people believe that there are such. I think the problem was that he had an office that he held, and he had a responsibility to the membership – and he placed his personal views before the membership, which is a mistake. […] I think there are legal limits [to free speech]. Alongside that, part of her platform is the clear establishment of a code of conduct for debates to ensure “respectful, amicable and rigorous political discourse.”
Alongside the usual black-tie events hosted by the KCLCA, Anastasiia would also like to expand the types of events available to new and old members alike. “Black-tie events are some of our most popular events, and I would seek to have more of them, but of course, in the beginning, it’s good to have pub crawl and curry nights – more informal events to break the ice. Of course, we’re always looking to increase our membership.”
Following the KCLCA’s internal investigation into Amos’ conduct, Anastasiia would also like to set up a simple complaints process within the KCLCA. “What I want to make sure is that the society can handle its problems on its own because the strength of a society is its ability to handle its own problems – we cannot run to the SU every time we face an obstacle.”
We asked both candidates how they view the government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. Laszlo praised the UK’s economic response, telling us that, “A lot of people died. It is very hard to say whether those who died, died because of lack of action from the government or would have died later on even if the peak was not so high. I believe some of the economic actions from the government, so, for example, lowering the interest rate, was very good straight from the beginning [sic.]. They were one of the earliest countries to do so. […] The economic way that they handled it was, I think, brilliant [sic.]. I think I need time and perspective, to really see how different countries turn out.”
Anastasiia told us that, “Lockdown’s happened everywhere in Europe. It obviously could have been handled a lot better, but let’s hope it’s resolved soon and we don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
On the subject of Brexit, Laszlo told us, “In the beginning, I was also against Brexit, but then later I understood that things had to be done because of the Referendum, because of – I guess people decided they wanted to leave the EU.
Anastasiia is of a similar mind. “I’m pro-Brexit. I think I’m pro policies that are best for the UK, and I’m pro-trade but I believe that the Uk should be able to make its own trade policies. I think Brexit should be centred primarily around economic issues and economic benefits for the UK. I think going into racial territory is a reversal of everything that we as humanity are trying to accomplish right now.”