Forgive me for being cynical, but who gives a fuck what Gavin Williamson thinks about interior design? A quick google of his desk reveals a stark wooden surface, with no ornaments other than an actual whip positioned in the foreground. As is standard Tory practice, the only background decorations are a grotesquely large British flag and an ancient clock with the two hands set to look like a frown. Not a photo to be seen, not even of the wife he cheated on in 2004! Fascinating, considering his sudden interest in portraits . . .

Yes, Oxford’s students are once again front page news. This time, for the crime of democracy. Magdalen’s MCR voted to have a picture of the Queen that hangs in their common room taken down, which was labelled ‘absurd’ by Williamson. Other highly respectable figures have been quick to put in their two cents, including the inimitable Laurence Fox, who labelled the students ‘little twerps’ like he’s some sort of Simpsons bully. It’s a fascinating volte-face to see the ‘respect the vote’ crowd turn against democracy at the drop of a hat to protect an image of an unelected monarch.

All of these strange non-events follow the same formula: take something that doesn’t matter and create a battle out of it that makes students seem sensitive and pathetic, while making the government seem like it’s actively protecting ‘British values’ . Never mind that it’s none of the government’s business, nor that there’s a blatant hypocrisy to promoting ‘free speech’ while condemning students for taking a vote. The only thing that matters is making a government that has a reputation for incompetence seem like it’s fighting for the ‘normal’ people of Britain, who are apparently those who cannot bear the thought that someone else’s room doesn’t have a photo of the Queen in it. 

I’m sick and tired of watching Oxford be used as a means of winning a fabricated culture war. It’s exhausting for normal students who just want to get on with our lives without provoking adult men into social media hissy-fits every time we move a muscle. It sometimes feels like there’s a magnifying glass hovering over Oxford, watching for any hint of liberalism or subversive thought so that it can be broadcast to the entire country. Tory rhetoric about confronting ‘cancel culture’ only seems to matter when it’s their mates feeling like mugs, not when a government official is criticising students for a democratic vote on an issue that, frankly, sounds extremely dull.

Perhaps the ‘snowflake’ generation isn’t the students. Perhaps it’s people who are taking out their mid-life crises on us for short-term publicity. When Julia Hartley-Brewer is going on national television describing people involved with student politics as “sad people without any friends”, you realise that this country is totally screwed. As Magdalen’s President Dinah Rose put it, “Being a student is… sometimes about provoking the older generation. Looks like that isn’t so hard to do these days.”

Image Credit: Ed Webster. CC BY 2.0


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