Monday, 5 August 2019


In today's Torygraph we learn that Boris Johnson went on an Oxford Union debate beano to the USA in 1986. In the team of four was also the incoming head of the NHS, Simon Stevens. Over to theTelegraph:

"Boris Johnson, an Old Etonian, has been the centre-Right president of the Oxford Union, employing his waggish charm to cultivate loyal 'stooges' hanging on his every word. Simon Stevens, on the other hand, was from a Birmingham comprehensive, a member of the Labour Club and was far more earnest in his approach to student politics."

What more does a Telegraph reader need to know. As Kate Fox (and George Mikes before her) has pointed out, one of the first principles of Englishness is the importance of not being earnest.

But it gets worse: when they debate the Yanks, the debating styles were, according to the third member of the Four Englishmen of the Apocalypse,, Angus McCullough (now) QC, "glaringly different...the English relied on being entertaining, there was no greater sin than dullness, while the (Yanks were) seething with facts and statistics but tended to be turgid."

Oddly enough, however, the fourth member of the team was one Frank Luntz a double-ringer in that he was an American and also a graduate student, having already received his degree from Donald Trump's alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. Luntz is now, of course, a leading political pollster, and frequent pundit on the BBC (obviously unconnected with that time at Oxford).

The article says Luntz is said to 'speak regularly with the Prime Minister*'. Although it identifies Michael Gove as one of the Stooges, it does not confer that honour onto Luntz. Note too, in the picture above which accompanied the article, Boris is actually dancing with his future first wife, Allegra Mostyn-Owen, but the paper declines to remind its readers of that. No need to be turgid.

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