Tony Blair said on the Labour campaign trail that change is the most vacuous slogan in politics. But we’ve got it. For the first time in generations we have a real seismic shift from an over-powerful government to a coalition. Brute strength has been replaced by compromise. Apparently.
Yet there is something that hasn’t changed. One left-wing Oxbridge elite leaves power, and a right-wing Oxbridge elite enters power in this bizarre see-saw of intellectual aloofness and non-representativeness that we call Westminster politics. Five ministers in David Cameron’s cabinet were educated at Magdalen College, Oxford. To compare the number of undergraduates that Magdalen takes in each year (about 120) and the number of adults in the UK, which is probably something around 45million, might be called overstressing the point. But it’s clear. Politics is an ‘us and them’ game.
And we are ‘us’. And how should this ‘us’ behave given that, casting all optimism aside, it is likely that a future cabinet will contain a disproportional number of personalities who spend their evenings creeping around President’s Drinks, swilling port, or Community Organising? We’ll tell you how. Like normal human beings. Like normal undergraduates.
One of the saddest things we encounter at Oxford is a mindset that says ‘be careful. I’ve got my career to think about’. We all know someone who’ll decline that offer of a last drink, who might duck away from that kiss or refuse to put on that fancy dress costume like their friends do, because of some irrational fear that having fun now destroys any serious attempt to get a job later.
But as we’ve seen, you can dress up as a Nazi officer if you want. You can edit a magazine and write headlines that slam the political party you will end up close to the top of. Tony Blair grew his hair long and joined a band.
You can even enter a club whose tailcoat costs more than a year’s University tuition. And you can still make it all the way to Number 10.
Our cautious friends are prolific “detaggers”. But Facebook means that we are a generation that really cannot escape from its past. There may not be photos of you puking on a tramp or urinating on a war memorial, but, if you’re anything like us, there will be ones of you blind drunk, singing, perhaps in drag, perhaps on the floor, perhaps even having a romantic liaison. And these will stick. They will come back to haunt you. But we say: let them.
No one should begrudge you having a normal childhood, nor should they begrudge you having a normal student experience at University. As we’ve said before, this is the time to live for today, and not for some distant hypothetical tomorrow.