Thursday, 25 October 2012

Class Justice at the Boat Race

‘There is a dreadful thing called a “Boat Race” in our part of London, which I am only too glad to avoid’, wrote Jane Morris on 20 March 1885. Whether she thought the Oxford-Cambridge contest on the Thames was dreadful because it is elitist, which is the reason protestor Trenton Oldfield gave for disrupting it by swimming into the path of the boats on 7 April this year, I do not know. Quite possibly: having grown up in squalid lodgings in Oxford’s Holywell Street, with her ostler father looking after the horses of university gentlemen and her brother William employed as a college servant, Jane may well have had ambivalent feelings towards the ancient universities. Trenton Oldfield has recently been sentenced for his boat race protest, getting a swingeing six months in jail for peacefully interrupting this ‘dreadful’ sporting event. Thus the English establishment, loud in its condemnation of Pussy Riot’s two-year jail sentence for political protest in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, hypocritically protects its own class-based pleasures at home. One can imagine Morris himself angrily denouncing the vindictive sentence on Oldfield in one of his trenchant little Notes on News in Commonweal.

1 comment:

Tony Pinkney said...

Car drivers who kill cyclists in careless driving incidents often get lesser sentences than Trenton Oldfield - see the cycling website for many instances of this.