“Pigs at the trough” – Chums by Simon Kuper

There are, it seems to me, two kinds of people in the world: those who have woken in despair a great many times since 2016 and those who think the UK is on the right track. There are those, even now, even after letting the bodies pile up, even after the parties and the public money given to donors, even after the pornography in the Commons and the Electoral Commission being deprived of its independent status and – you know – all the rest of it, who would still vote for the Conservatives tomorrow. I can’t imagine for one second that reading Simon Kuper’s book, Chums (How a tiny caste of Oxford Tories took over the UK), would change any of their minds. This book, Kuper tells us, “is not an attempt to relitigate the Brexit referendum” nor is it “a twee Oxford tale of witticisms exchanged by long-dead dons”; rather it is “an attempt to write a group portrait of a set of Tory Brexiteers” because “it won”: “It ended up making Brexit and remodelling the UK. To understand power in today’s Britain requires travelling back in time to the streets of Oxford, somewhere between 1983 and 1993.” Kuper, you’ll come to understand, was at Oxford at more or less the same time as Johnson, Gove, Rees-Mogg, Cameron, Dominic Cummings (and their cheerleaders Toby Young, Nick Robinson etc). While there is a little of Kuper here (his own fleeting experience of Oxford shimmers like a heat haze around the story he is telling), what we are doing is following a small group of men as they transfer all of the advantage of Eton to Oxford, walking around like they own the place, doing what they please because no one has ever told them otherwise and getting away with it, time and […]