Sidney students have launched a new politics society, named after former student and Honorary Fellow The Right Honourable The Lord Owen CH PC FRCP.

Lord Owen will join students for an ‘in conversation’ event at Sidney on Monday 6 November.

Owen Politics Society President Rees Abbott (History and Politics, 2022) said, ‘We felt that Sidney students would benefit from the College having its own politics society and we are delighted to welcome Lord Owen, an extremely distinguished politician, as our patron and as the speaker at our first event.

'Lord Owen has been in different parties, he's held the position of Foreign Secretary and he's been part of the debate for some of the biggest issues in British politics.’

Lord Owen said that to have the new Society named after him was 'an honour', and that he looked forward to 'learn(ing) the concerns of Sidney people like me 65+ years on.'

The new Society plans to stage three events per year, one each term, with the format split between an ‘in conversation’ section and an extended Q&A.

Rees Abbott: ‘I want it to feel quite intimate, and it’s about getting a balance – it’s not an interrogation, or just a lecture.’

The event on 6 November will be followed by an informal drinks reception and Dinner.

Dr David Owen (Medicine, 1956) was first elected to parliament in 1966, winning the Plymouth Sutton constituency. In the February 1974 general election, he was elected to represent Plymouth Devonport.

Following the Labour General Election victory in March 1974, Prime Minister Harold Wilson appointed Owen as Minister of State for Health. After he succeeded Wilson, James Callaghan promoted Owen to Foreign Secretary.

In 1981, Owen left Labour. With the other members of the ‘Gang of Four’ (Roy Jenkins, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams) he later founded, and led, the SDP (Social Democratic Party), which aimed to ‘break the mould’ of British politics. The SDP eventually merged with the Liberal Party to form the Liberal Democrats, but Owen refused to join the merged party.

He was made a life peer, and sits in the House of Lords as a crossbencher.

In 1992, Owen was appointed co-Chair, with the former US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, of the Conference for the Former Yugoslavia. He testified at the trial of former President Slobodan Milošević.

An advocate of proportional representation, in the run-up to the 2010 general election he supported the Charter 2010 initiative which promoted what that group saw as the advantages of a hung parliament.

He has spoken out about the scandal of infected blood products being given to haemophiliacs, and in 2020 gave evidence to the Infected Blood Inquiry in London.

Recalling his time at Sidney, Lord Owen said: 'As part of one’s overall development the Cambridge experience was unmatched by any other three years of my life. My political attitudes were shaped in Great St Mary’s Church under its Labour-orientated priest, Mervyn Stockwood. I went to only one Union debate which I saw as play acting, and I ignored all political parties. I was a member of the Humanist Society chaired by E M Forster and a regular attender at the Leavis weekly English lecture, open to all, where I learnt to love poetry and his fascinating views on D H Lawrence, amongst other writers.'

You can follow the Owen Politics Society on Instagram. The Society’s committee is Rees Abbott (President), Charlotte Bardsley, Anoushka Kale, Lloyd Lewis-Protheroe, Alex Rundle and Max Sanders.

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