As most of you probably know already, I didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge. Instead, I spent my University days by the sea at Swansea, which may be why some of the shock and horror at the latest brouhahaha about the Oxford Union confuses me.
One of the complaints from those opposed to Griffin and Irving speaking there is that somehow they’ll be legitimised by being allowed to speak in the hallowed halls of the Oxford Union, as if this one student-run debating society has the power to decide the opinions of the nation.
And this is where the bit about not going to Oxford becomes important, because I’m sure that to people who studied there, the Union is a fantastically important body that creates inspirational oratorical figures who’ll go on to shape the future history of the nation. However, to the rest of us, it’s some quaint debating club for posh people at a University most people don’t really care about that occasionally gets mentioned in the news when some celebrity gets invited.
Now, I’m sure someone could tell me about the vitally important debates the Oxford Union have held over the past few years, but doing a search for it on the BBC News site finds the top stories for ‘Oxford Union’ mention the following people speaking there: General Mike Jackson, Bishop Gene Robinson, Ray Mallon, Clint Eastwood, Claire Short, Charlotte Church, Douglas Hurd, Judi Dench, Jon Bon Jovi, Jerry Hall, Michael Jackson and Gerard Way (the singer with My Chemical Romance). The idea that an organisation that’s not much different from the TV chat show circuit having some mythical reputation and authority that it will magically bestow onto Griffin and Irving is not one widely shared by most people.
And while we’re talking of celebrity speakers, the Union has invited Kermit The Frog to speak there, so I expect it won’t be long before the Millennium Elephant gets invited to travel there.