Stand up Michael Gove.
Oh: you are stood up already (ooops! apologies for that mildly heightist reference). But please: do tell us what you really think.
Gove with the wind
First, last night, we had the dyspeptic Michael Gove on Newsnight, arguing, post David Cameron’s statement on the riots, that the causes were all very simple, and apparently horror-struck at the possibility that Harriet Harman might in any way think at all different. Actually, all Ms H was doing was agreeing absolutely to condemn the rioting and violence and stating plainly there was no justification for it, whilst repudiating Cameron’s simplistic assertion that the issue was “simple”.
Gove shrank back in his chair (sorry!), and looked as though he had just eaten something that disagreed. Or maybe he was thinking about eating someone who disagreed and was summoning up the courage to sink his teeth into Harriet’s leg.
Whatever. And what a difference a night makes. This morning, Gove was on the Breakfast Show talking about the complex causes of what has just gone down. Which maybe suggests that his previous night’s indignation was just show, designed to emabarrass Harman. He also mentioned that one of the problems was a “values”.
Oxford double standards
Yet, as the saga unfolds, the real victim of long-term embarrassment looks increasingly likely to be his boss, diddy Dave Cameron.
I went to Oxford. I wasn’t some rich hooray henry: was, in fact, mostly alienated by the antics of the old etonians and left Oxford feeling thoroughly resentful at the whole experience. If that was the pinnacle of UK
education, i reckoned, there was something very rotten at its heart.
A friend – a law student – frequently regaled me with her experiences in the local magistrate’s courts, where she was sent to observe “justice” at work. It was instructive. Very. For justice, when it came to the offspring of local council estate dwellers was swift, harsh, and took no prisoners. Well, it did send them to prison…but you know what i mean.
Whereas that same justice, faced by the scions of posh and titled families just bent over backwards and beseeched the accused to give it a good rimming. Lord Alexander… I see you have a character reference. From a Bishop? Well done. Very well done. And you were caught committing criminal damage? Quite understandable. Don’t do it again…and see your dad down the club.
Actually, that’s a fib: most Oxford magistrates were several social grades below the uppermost hooray’s who passed thru.
The bullying Bullers
They were certainly well below the ranks of the “Bullers” – members of Oxford’s elite Bullingdon Dining Club – whose recent intake included David Cameron, George Osbourne and Boris Johnson.
And whilst saome of us might jib a little at the sheer outrageousness of a club designed to indulge the vanity of some of the UK’s richest students by encouraging them to dress in clothes that cost a small fortune and indulge themselves until they were well and truly sick, there are other aspects of the Bullingdon that might give pause for thought today.
Its “values” for one. Because the Bullingdon had a formidable reputation for carrying out criminal damage: wrecking restaurants, destroying private property. So as well as ordinary costs and subscriptions, the club is alleged to have levied a sum every term to cover damages.
Ah. So that’s clear. If i should take it into my head to go on a rampage round the Deepings, pouring petrol through the letterbox of my local councillor and hurling a bin through the front window of the local baker, all would be OK if i just popped round the next day and offered to pay for the damage? Wouldn’t it?
Is it even worth asking the Met if they take that view? If some of Monday night’s rioters offered to pay for goods removed, would the heat be off? What a stupid question. The answer, as Dave put it, is simple: nothing justifies young people, rich or poor, going out and creating mayhem like this.
The questions Cameron et al need to answer
Which is where the Bullingdon may yet turn out to be Achilles’ heel for this government. I posted last night about how a quote attributed to Johnson/Cameron glorifying their role in past crim damage was probably fiction. And i don’t like debate to be carried out on the basis of fiction.
But still, there are questions to be answered. Did Cameron, Johnson and Osbourne take part in criminal damage whilst at Oxford? How did they make amends? And what action, by the authorities, helped them to understand the error of their ways? Were they ever prosecuted? And if not, why not?
At what point in their lives did they decide that criminal damage was not a good thing to commit? And – the $64,000 question – what standing do these individuals have today in lecturing youth on criminal damage if they, themselves, were once guilty of inflicting it at a similar age.