By Eugene Smith
It’s the mantra every Durham student lives by: forget those exclusivist pointy-heads down south, you’re better off without them.
And now, the Oxbridge rejection coping mechanism has been given some external validation, courtesy of a divisive column in The Spectator news magazine by right-wing commentator James Delingpole.
Reflecting on a recent visit to the University for a debate on the National Health Service, Mr Delingpole claims that “attempts to broaden the social mix at Oxford and Cambridge have instead created a sterile PC monoculture”, leaving Durham with an “influx of talent” that raises its standards of intellectual discovery.
Durham is still, Mr Delingpole admits, “filled with Oxbridge rejects […] but of such a high calibre that they would once have been a shoo-in.”
Speaking in favour of the motion, ‘This House believes the NHS is out of date’, Mr Delingpole “could scarcely believe” the audience’s receptiveness to his arguments, and that the motion went on to be carried by 75 votes to 50.
The columnist, who is also Executive Editor of the London branch of the Breitbart news site, contrasted the experience with a debate at the Oxford Union, at which students “couldn’t get enough” of ex-Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger’s “unutterably predictable, dreary, fatuous lefty tosh.”
For Mr Delingpole, his Durham Union experience demonstrated that whilst the Oxbridge universities have created “a monoculture of earnest state-indoctrinated Stakhanovites from which the children of the sun have been all but expunged”, more “simpatico” institutions like Durham, Bristol and Edinburgh have benefited from avoiding such an anti-elitist stance.
Not everyone was enamoured by Mr Delingpole’s views, however.
Rollo Speak, a Durham student in attendance of the NHS debate, said: “He’s kind of only writing the article because, for once, someone agreed with him.
“I think it’s wrong that he connects Oxbridge being sterile and PC and it being anti-elitist when the two are entirely disparate ideas, in that the anti-elitist argument refers to admissions processes when the sterile and PC [argument] refers to a student culture. I’m not saying that there might not be some link, but amalgamating the two ideas entirely seems inaccurate.”
Photograph: The Freedom Association, via Creative Commons