Retalls (23.6.19)

(…) You turn the pages of yellowing student newspapers from 30 years ago, and there they are, recognisably the same faces that dominate today’s British news. Boris Johnson running for Union president, Michael Gove winning debating contests, Jeremy Hunt holding together the faction-ridden Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA).(...) The UK is thus about to install its 11th Oxonian prime minister since the war. (...) This beats even the grip of the Ecole Nationale d’Administration on the French presidency (...) When I arrived in Oxford aged 18 in October 1988, it was still a very British and quite amateurish university, shot through with dilettantism, sexual harassment and sherry. Gove, Hunt and the much less political David Cameron had graduated that summer, and Johnson in 1987 (...) This isn’t a jolly boys’ story about the japes we all had together. I didn’t know any of the Oxford Tories personally, because we were separated by the great Oxford class divide: I was middle class (....) and they were mostly upper-class public schoolboys. But the night Brexit happened, I sensed it was rooted in 1980s Oxford (...) Johnson’s Oxford days are now usually mentioned in connection with his membership of the hard-drinking, posh and sometimes destructive Bullingdon Club, but in fact he was a vessel of focused ambition. Arriving in Oxford from Eton in 1983, he had three aims, writes Sonia Purnell in Just Boris: to get a First-class degree, find a wife and become Union president. That post was “the first step to being prime minister”, said the 1980s Tory politician Michael Heseltine. At speakers’ dinners, a 20-year-old Union president would find himself or herself sitting next to cabinet ministers and other useful contacts. (...) Most students arrived in Oxford barely knowing the Union existed, but Johnson possessed the savvy of his class: he had run Eton’s debating society, and his father Stanley had come to Oxford in 1959 intending to become Union president. Stanley had failed but Boris was a star. (...)