Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Boris Johnson, David Cameron and Brideshead Revisited

Prompted by the new film version, Peter Bradshaw writes about the effect of the 1980s television adaptation of Brideshead Revisited on a generation of young Tories:

A whole generation of appalling 80s Oxbridge hoorays, culminating in the Bullingdon Club of David Cameron and Boris Johnson, found in it a manifesto for escapist self-love and this came down to the fact that it was a fantasy that was affordable.

Everyone was on grants. Brideshead Revisited was the Full Grant Fantasy Epic, as redolent of the 80s as Beverly Hills Cop. The awful truth was that the predominantly middle-class strivers of 80s Oxbridge were often financially as well off, or perhaps even better off in ready cash terms, than Sebastian and Charles were in the 20s - during university term-time at any rate. Their income was regular, independent of family whim, guaranteed by the state and fees were paid off at source.

He goes on, including a link to that strangely elusive photograph:
That excruciatingly embarrassing group picture of the 1987 Bullingdon Club (Evelyn Waugh called it the "Bollinger" in Decline And Fall) featuring David, Boris et al, striking silly poses, is essentially a picture of tragic middle-class wish-fulfilment.

They and others of similar interests could wear silly tail-coats or other accoutrements and get drunk at local restaurants, and when the vac came - well, it was not a question of motoring to Brideshead, or even to Charles's picturesque and elegant world of loneliness, but in most cases a National Express coach to a nice house in the suburbs, and the stable, uncool family which underpinned the aspirational, exam-passing commitment that got you to the dreaming spires in the first place.


Anonymous said...

Isn't that Oliver Letwin two to the right of Cameron?

dreamingspire said...

Well, I just had to add a comment, didn't I? True about the fees and grant, but they would have needed a lot more to fund the lifestyle.

Jonathan Calder said...

Letwin went to Cambridge (where he was a Liberal) and is older than Boris and Cameron.

Direwolf said...

Is there really anything tragic in their wish fulfillment? These guys had the tuxes then and the clout now. I'm not sure where the pathos is.