Abolishing Oxbridge with Owen Jones

Oxford

Oxford

The Bemolution recently stumbled across this old article by consistently excellent Owen Jones that calls for the abolition of Oxbridge. To step out of character for a minute, my own experiences as a state-educated hick somehow ending up at Cambridge lead me to the exact same conclusion.

Oxford and Cambridge are archaic little crevices in which privilege, self-assumed superiority and detachment from reality are allowed to fester. Toppling Oxbridge wouldn’t eradicate the inequality that’s already unacceptably massive and still growing, but it would be a vital part of any serious egalitarian advance on all fronts.

That said, I think Jones is actually too generous about Oxbridge in his piece. There is absolutely no doubt that Oxbridge educations are of a very high standard. But I think it’s a mistake to assume – as so many do – that this is the result of its all-surpassing teaching methods, world-beating curriculums, or something inherently superior about its olde-worlde aesthetic, ethos, and general outlook. Continue reading

Ed Miliband Did A Speech

Ed

Ed

The commentariat might have obsessed over it past the point of self-parody, but Ed Miliband’s Labour Conference speech wasn’t too bad. He’s already said that New Labour is over. In Brighton last week, he seemed to ever-so-tentatively hint that his party’s wholesale embrace of free market capitalism might not have been the best idea either.

As crabbily essayed last post, the modern party conference is a soulless and undemocratic PR exercise, the grim pinnacle of our cultural fixation with the over-hyped individuals with whom the buck stops rather than actual political substance. There’s something faintly repulsive about the stage-managed spectacle of it when you watch it on TV – the wrist-dislocating vigour of the Chinese Communist Party-style applause, the gun-to-the-back-of-your-head grin-grimace of the Labour Party celebrities sat in the front row, the no-doubt obsessively vetted panoply of faces sat on stage behind the Dear Leader for no other reason than to create an adoring tableau of party unity. Continue reading

Party Conferences Are Fairly Meaningless

party conferenceIt’s that time of year when arch-politicos and the commentariat take to the provinces to splash around in our puddle-shallow political mainstream.

Radically, party conference season involves the Westminster set actually leaving London, which must lead to many sleepless nights beforehand wondering whether mochas and running water have spread beyond the M25. For everyone else, the abiding question should probably be how so much time, money and media coverage can be blown on events where no-one really says anything.

Last week, the Labour Party – or at least the bits of it that could spare the £100 entrance fee – met in Brighton. This week, the Conservatives are congregating in Manchester.

The Tory Conference is unlikely to tell us anything we didn’t already know. Thanks to the kind of journalists who take DWP press releases as unassailable fact and churn out televisual variations on the theme ‘Why Are You Scrounging On Benefits, You Feckless Scroungers?’, we already bask in borderline-sociopathic Cameron-rays every day of the week. Labour might well be a neoliberalised sham of its former self, but at least hearing from Ed Miliband and co makes for a bit of a change. Continue reading

Question Time: Coventry, 9th May

The Coventry sky-line

The Coventry sky-line

As the NHS tumbles down the slope towards privatisation, Question Time ignores it completely and obsesses about Europe. Such is the unearthly power of Middle England’s xenophobe Dracula Nigel Farage.

The Place: Coventry, the West Midlands

This week: having done paradigm-shiftingly well in last week’s local government elections, UKIP and Nigel Farage were suddenly, inescapably everywhere; the government announced widely controversial plans to tackle migrants coming to the UK to use the NHS, asking doctors and nurses to blow the whistle on so-called ‘health tourists’; and David Cameron appointed Old Etonian number six to his inner circle, making Jo Johnson, brother to London’s Mayor, the head of No. 10’s policy unit.  Continue reading

March of the Kippers

ukippersBarely dented by accusations of extremism, UKIP’s highest profile County campaign in history saw the mainstream parties shunted aside by the purple juggernaut.

Here in the eternally green, pleasant and Blue-or-Yellow-ruled West Country, a gruelling night of ballot-box overturning revealed astounding levels of support for United Kingdom Independence Party, Britain’s foremost catch-all protest party of wax-jacketed xenophobes.

Nationally, UKIP have just pulled off the biggest jump in support any fourth party has achieved in over half a century. At the last County elections in 2009, eight UKIP councillors were elected. Yesterday, they got 147. Of all the votes cast in 34 separate elections across England, nearly a quarter went to UKIP. In Somerset, they leapt from nowhere to secure three seats. Continue reading

Question Time: Worcester, 25th April

The place: Worcester, the West Midlands

This week: the UK’s economy registered a slight return to growth (0.3%); Britain fumed at the continued failure to deport murder-inciting radical Islamist Abu Qatada; and Tory Education overlord Michael Gove continued his scholastic party-pooping by calling for longer school days and shorter school holidays. Continue reading

Left-Wing Least-Worstism: Unite Or Die

The reason this blog’s cod-philosophical standpoint is called ‘Left-Wing Least-Worstism’ is because of a very un-leftish pessimism. The situation we’re in is abjectly bad.

That might sound extreme – the consensus seems to be that things might be tentatively improving on the political front. Certainly, Occupy and the boisterous anti-cuts movement have provided some much-needed reasons to be almost cheerful. But we need to be brutally realistic – they come after a quarter-century of decline. More tellingly, they had little to do with the ‘established’ Left, instead riding on the free-thinking and initiative of passionate individuals largely operating outside official groups. Continue reading