Three cheers for Oriel College, which after years of dither and delay, has finally come to the only possible decision about its very small statue of Cecil Rhodes.
Having studied the history of my country, I am a great admirer of Rhodes but even I do not think he was a saint. Entrepreneurs and empire-builders rarely are, but as prime minister of the Cape Colony, founder of the De Beers diamond empire and the father of Rhodesia, he was a titanic figure in British and African history.
A sickly vicar’s son from Bishop’s Stortford, Rhodes became one of the richest men in the world, set up Oxford’s Rhodes Scholarships and paid for Oriel College’s grand Rhodes Building which stands on Oxford’s High Street. On that building, provided you flatten yourself against the far wall and look very hard, you might spot the surprisingly small figure of Rhodes himself – the statue at the centre of this ludicrous nonsense.
For Oriel’s governing body, the whole business has been a nightmare. After being harangued for months by mobs of politically correct nutcases, the college launched a ‘consultation’ about the statue’s future – which many people saw as the first step to bringing it down.
To anybody who has followed similar cases in the last few years, the pattern was very familiar. First, a handful of students, activists and ‘celebrities’ sob and scream about supposed injustices, most of them a long way in the past. Then, provided they had screamed long and loudly enough, the authorities would simply give in, choosing to appease the mob rather than to stand up for their own institutions.
But in Oriel’s case, the college authorities had reckoned without their alumni – the real heroes of the story. Almost overnight, charitable donations collapsed as outraged ex-Oriel students cancelled bequests or disinherited the college from their wills.
Perhaps only a few of the alumni are active Rhodes fans, but they clearly believed that a great Oxford college, with a history dating back to 1326, should have the guts to stand up for itself instead of bowing meekly down to a mob of smug, strident, self-righteous brats.
So now, at last, the college has seen sense. Its independent commission has recommended new scholarships for African students, fellowships in areas related to Rhodes’s legacy, an annual lecture and other initiatives – which seems reasonable enough to me.
And with rare and commendable courage, Oriel’s Provost, the former businessman Lord Mendoza, has ruled out removing the statue, blaming the ‘regulatory and financial challenges’ that an inevitable court case would bring. He argues that it is far better to focus on improving life for today’s students, especially in Africa, than to spend any more time squabbling about a statue of a man who died in 1902.
So Rhodes won’t fall, after all. And quite right, too.
Only a crazed fanatic believes that the way to build a better society lies in tearing down statues. Only an idiot thinks that the youngsters of today have a monopoly on moral purity and nobody who loves history would ever be in the business of vandalising old buildings.
If Oriel had given in to the mob, the backlash among their alumni would have been disastrous for their finances and they might have found it impossible to offer any scholarships at all.
But the statue is to stay thank God. The college has found a sensible compromise. And at long last, somebody has had the courage to stand up to the cranks and extremists of the woke movement. So good for Lord Mendoza. And good for Oriel.
Here we go again. The coronabug has mutated and our revered leader is again reduced to a quivering wreck, threatening to cancel the next stage in the so called roadmap currently due to happen on 21st June. The vaccines, this buffoon tells us, are not a hundred per cent effective. Of course they are not but that was never expected. We were never promised that the Coronabug will disappear completely. We cannot reasonably expect that and our inept political leaders should not be guided by any such aim.
The vaccines were supposed to deliver sufficient immunity to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed and the death rate rocketing and to enable us to live with Covid as we live with flu or any other disease. They are clearly doing that and so long as the Indian variant does not fill the wards and the funeral parlours, it matters not that it is more transmissible.
What matters is that if we get the bug, we do not get it badly enough to end up in hospital or, worse still, as part of the death statistics.
To state the ruddy obvious, we cannot simply lock the country down every time a new variant comes along or we will have no economy left. We have to live normally unless and until there is a genuine threat to the NHS and at the moment there is no evidence that the new variant poses that. So why all the panic?
What on earth is the point of having one of the most effective vaccine rollouts in the world if we continue to act as if the vaccines had not yet been invented? If there is going to be an impact on hospitalisations or deaths from the Indian variant, it will become obvious soon enough but until then why cast further uncertainty over already struggling businesses or people with loved ones in care homes? Why strike more fear into the hearts of those already too timid and cowed by government inspired pressure to step outside their homes? Why encourage those who virulently deride the vaccine programme and who should those of us who have been vaccinated have to suffer for the few idiots who refuse the jab?
It is high time that Bunter J rediscovered the spirit that gave us that vaccine programme, even if the Bog Snorkeller, Kate Bingham deserves most of the credit. It is time he re-discovered what little courage he might have had when he took the job and above all, time he accepted the simple fact that the Coronabug is going to be with us for a very long time – probably for ever.
(Quite why two paragraphs above are in bold type, I really do not know but nor do I know how to correct that. Sorry.)