Ron Gray Annual Conference

The Conference is named in honour of Dr Ron Gray, a long time U3AC member and tutor, who left us a sizeable bequest. It has been held annually since 2014, when the subject was the Scottish independence referendum.


Conferences focus on political issues of the day. Recent topics have included The Future of Work, The Political Impact of Social Media and, last year, Imagining Politics beyond Brexit. Speakers often include distinguished academics from the universities in Cambridge, and they conclude with contributions and questions from the floor, which always results in a lively and interesting exchange of views.

The Conference is normally held in the Spring Term and is open to all members. It is usually fully subscribed – admission is by free ticket available from the Office on a ‘first come first served’ basis.

In view of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been decided to postpone the Conference. This will now be held on 26 March 2022.

2020 Conference: 18 January
Imagining Politics Beyond Brexit

Presentation from Mark Hayes

Presentation from David Burgess

The next Conference

Identity Politics and Culture Wars

It has become increasingly apparent in both the USA and the UK that political divisions are moving away from being primarily based on economic and class divisions towards a politics reflecting society’s cultural divisions. The first obvious manifestation of this was the Feminist movement, followed by that for Gay rights.

Of late there has been an increasing fragmentation of cultural groups into ever smaller identities each claiming a unique status. This process has been accelerated by migration and by the emergence of issues relating to gender identification (Facebook includes more than 50 different gender identities). Such movements are related to the culture wars in the Anglosphere, the election of Trump in the USA and the outcome of the EU referendum.

The questions that arise, which the Conference will try to address, include:

  • Have we moved from a politics of redistribution to one of recognition?
  • Is this a desirable development, or does it serve to divide rather than unite?
  • How is freedom of speech affected, and to what extent do groups have the right to restrict such freedom in a constitutionally unprotected state such as the UK?
  • How do we ensure the reliability of historical narratives?