Monday, September 21, 2020

When John Pugh quoted Evelyn Waugh in the Commons

Yesterday I posted my answers to a short questionnaire about some of my favourite and least favourite reading

One of the books I mentioned was Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall, and today I found this comment on that post:

Waugh's "Decline and Fall" is a good choice. I once used it in the Commons debate on the Academies Bill to general mystification as no-one who would have read it could have missed the irony of that particular proposal. Philistines !

"The Bill suggests that simply calling schools academies without the dosh will work some special magic. I am personally intrigued by this relabelling exercise.

There may be a day when simply calling an institution a "school" might be some sort of insult or an indication of failure. I do not know whether other hon. Members have read Evelyn Waugh's "Decline and Fall" but in it the hapless Paul Pennyfeather seeks a teaching job through an agency having been expelled from Oxford. He is told by the man at the agency:

"We class schools...into...Leading School, First-rate School, Good School and School. Frankly...School is pretty bad".

Interestingly enough, Waugh's unfortunate character Paul Pennyfeather was expelled from Oxford for indecency, having been de-bagged by drunken members of what Waugh calls the Bollinger Club. There is a slight resonance in that.

The comment was anonymous but a search of Hansard revealed that my hunch was correct: the writer was the former Liberal Democrat MP for Southport, John Pugh.

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