Saturday 14 September 2019

God be with you, Balliol persons

Undergraduates and graduates at Boris Johnson's college Balliol are organising a petition to ban him from his old college, because he prorogued Parliament.

Miss Lester, who is the women's officer of the Balliol Middle Common Room, said: 
"The demographics here have completely changed since Boris Johnson was a student. He does not represent our views and we don't want this person to be invited in as an alumnus, or have power within the college."
Balliol is the left-wing college at Oxford, just as King's is at Cambridge, and for a hundred years has had a different demographic from the rest of the university: there were always more working class men and some non-white undergraduates, even a century ago.
When a cinema audience in Oxford watched a scene in the film Sanders of the River where black men paddled a canoe, an undergraduate famously yelled out
'Well rowed, Balliol!'
Boris is pledged to take the UK out of the EU because of the referendum. Another Balliol
Prime Minister, Edward Heath, took us into the EEC in 1973 without a referendum and
without a majority of electors supporting him, as shown in opinion polls. Heath revisited his college every year. A third Balliol man, Harold Macmillan, who would have done the same had the far-sighted Charles De Gaulle not vetoed it, became Chancellor of Oxford.
What Boris does have in common with the three other Balliol Prime Ministers (the fourth or rather first is Asquith) is that they are liberals and internationalists. 

I wonder what Belloc would have thought about it. He was Balliol and a Liberal. In his day
the college was small and clubby as Oxbridge colleges were before they went mixed. I remember these lines of his from reading them when I was a boy of nine. They moved me then though I didn't know where Balliol was, but I find them much more moving now.

Years ago when I was at Balliol, 
Balliol men and I was one 
Swam together in winter rivers, 
Wrestled together under the sun. 
And still in the heart of us, Balliol, Balliol, 
 Loved already, but hardly known, 
 Welded us each of us into the others : 
 Called a levy and chose her own. 
 Here is a House that armours a man 
 With the eyes of a boy and the heart of a ranger, 
 And a laughing way in the teeth of the world 
 And a holy hunger and thirst for danger : 
 Balliol made me, Balliol fed me, 
 Whatever I had she gave me again : 
 And the best of Balliol loved and led me. 
 God be with you, Balliol men. 

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