Tag Archives: students

On The Labour Party

A nice lady came around the other day from the Labour Party. She was here to talk to Daughter, who is a party member and very active at her university.

Having let the dogs out to run her off the estate, I began to ponder Daughter’s support for Thigmoo, or This Great Movement Of Ours, as Labour Party people used to refer to it.

She has precious little choice. When I was a student, in the 1970s, the choice for the radical leftist was the various Trotskyist splinter groups* or, for the more fuddy-duddy, the Communist Party. Neither option seems to be around today.

The Labour Party existed on campus, but more as an extension of the party nationally. By no means cutting edge.

One has to wonder if the unexpected success among the Labour grass roots of the hard left Jeremy Corbyn, initially dismissed as a joke when he entered the Labour leadership contest but now ahead in some of the polls, has to do with the arrival, largely unnoticed, of hordes of young leftists. The party is startlingly cheap to join, even for students.

This means Labour may be about to select the fourth unelectable leader in my lifetime at the behest of a large number of people who, in another era, would not be party members. Or would be opposed as entryists, the name formerly given Trots and communists who tried to join in order to influence policy. Oh, the irony.

Incidentally, I would be ashamed of Daughter if she were anything else at her age. God forbid some Tory Libertarian, always banging on about Ayn Rand.

(*In my youth there was a splinter group known as the Communist Party of Great Britain. Nothing to do with the CP, or for that matter GB, the only country they approved of was Albania. They had an unusual membership policy.

If a member was accused of deviationism, or incorrect thoughts, the entire membership voted to expel him or her. If they passed, fine. If not, then they were expelled, and a similar vote was taken on any who had supported them. And so on, and so on, in an endlessly recursive process.

As a party, they were very small, but very ideologically pure.)


On “Jazz Hands”, And Students

One story has been bugging me all week. The audience at a conference of female students has been asked to refrain from applause during delegates’ speeches because this might cause “anxiety”.

Instead, they are asked by the National Union of Students to use “jazz hands”. This, derived from an earlier form of jazz dancing, I assume, involves holding your hands out, palms outwards, and wiggling your fingers.

(Thus requiring that audience to look like nothing so much as the cast of the late and deeply unlamented light entertainment show The Black and White Minstrels, though given the all-pervading political correctness the union’s diktat suggests, it might be better not to go too far down that route. Younger readers, Google it and prepare to be appalled.)

What has been bugging me is what this says about the current generation of students, apparently so emotionally fragile they are unable to countenance anything so disruptive as actual applause. The story has, to be fair, triggered a generally hostile response on Twitter.

We already know that student unions are increasingly inclined to ban speakers with whose views they disagree, in case the purity of their political thoughts might somehow be sullied by dissenting voices.

In my day, student political debate was noisy and rough, accompanied by shouting, barracking, boos, strenuous shows of support and, occasionally, unwarranted threats of physical violence.

God alone knows how today’s academic shrinking violets would cope with that.

All Students are Equal…

An item on the Today Programme conflated two recent stories about freedom of speech in our universities. An outfit called Universities UK has decreed that segregated seating, separating men from women, may be permitted if requested by certain orthodox religious speakers.

Meanwhile, at the London School of Economics, two students from the Atheist Society were challenged by the authorities over a harmless T-shirt that depicted Jesus and the Prophet Muhammad. There was no indication who had complained, or whether there had even been complaints.

Neither Universities UK or the LSE took part in the programme. There were, I am glad to say, vociferous protests featured from students concerned about the introduction of gender segregation.

Student life has plainly changed somewhat since I was at college in the 1970s. Then, any suggestion that under any circumstances male and female audiences should be treated in any way differently would have had you torn limb from limb by dungareed Amazons. At the LSE, militant atheism was not so much discouraged as part of the core curriculum.

There was an interesting gap in the BBC’s reporting. One must deduce that a party or parties are putting pressure on academe, or certainly the LSE,  to stamp down on any attack on any religion, however anodyne. Said party, or possibly another party, is keen to introduce segregated audiences at universities when they are addressed by speakers from, and I quote the BBC, “orthodox religious groups”. In both cases, the authorities involved appear to have capitulated to this pressure.

But who are these parties, for whom the Enlightenment was seemingly an irritating distraction? No one has said. The Moonies? The Scientologists? The Flat Earth Society? I have no idea, and it would be entirely contrary to the traditions of objective academic research to speculate with no evidence available. Perhaps the BBC should have dug a little deeper and told us. Or perhaps they chose not to.

We will never know.