Harriet Walker on TV: Wonderland: Young, Bright and on the Right

Inside the tiresome world of student politics, delusions of grandeur run riot

When I was at university, it was a very special breed of person that joined the political scene. The Left-wingers were earnest and pretentious, and the Right-wingers were either oleaginous creeps or socially retarded evil babies. No, student politics was very much for those who felt they had something to prove. As was student journalism – but at least that breed of person was more likely to get laid.

According to Wonderland: Young, Bright and on the Right, the future looks as annoyingly tiresome as, well, the student politics scene itself. The programme introduced us to Joe Cooke, 21, ex-president of the Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA) and Machiavelli in milk-bottle glasses, and Chris Monk, 19, whose baffled Lib Dem parents watch aghast from Kettering as he attempts to scale the dizzy heights of the Cambridge University Conservative Association (CUCA).

"I want to focus OUCA less on socialising and more on serious politics," explains Joe, over a shot of him canoodling with some stripy buffoons at the Boat Race. "We need to deliver what the Conservatives need: we can build a Big Society in Oxford."

This seems unlikely, given that Oxford – and Cambridge, too – has thrived since medieval times on being a Very Small Society Indeed. Nevertheless, Joe – with his oversized pocket hanky, his tea-chest of "destructibles" (which houses a dead hare's head and a garishly-hued framed portrait of Thatcher looking for all the world like a Technicolor Hare Krishna) and the dirty war he plans over cream tea – is set on making his mark on the party. He is also pretty keen on bringing down his "ex-friend" and current president James, of whom he speaks with all the face-contorting bile that you imagine Andrew Ridgeley summons when he talks about George Michael.

Chris Monk, meanwhile, has tasted none of the success that Joe has yet and my God, he feels it keenly. "The Union's a meeting place for anybody who's anybody," he explains. (I'd happily contest this statement but I get the impression Chris Monk wouldn't have thought very much of me had we crossed student paths.) "It's an excellent place to get noticed by people at Cambridge. And being known as a wild firebrand of the Right, as I am, gets you noticed."

There are some great figures in history, like Napoleon or Sir Thomas More, that you want to reach into history to and give a little shake, and tell them stop acting the goat. Chris Monk will never be one of these, but that didn't stop me wanting to stick one arm in the telly, pull on his ear and try to scream some sense into him. Watching him scare people with his vituperative and gesticulatory non-rhetoric – made all the more lively by his alarmingly flat hair – was almost painful. At least, it would have been had I managed to feel any sympathy for him whatsoever.

"Enjoyment is a very important part of Conservatism," he tells us as he gets ready for a party, brushing that hair even flatter. Once at the party, he terrifies people by talking too loudly about port and "chayse" (he means cheese), money and bettering himself, all in a strident voice that makes him sound like a cartoon witch.

Joe, meanwhile, outs himself as a thoroughly likeable character. Only when he takes a trip to his hometown of Haworth do we begin to understand his dilemma. That funny accent of his, at times Welsh and at times a bit Soviet, is how he covers up his dastardly Northern roots, his single-parent origins and his severe dyslexia. "The Conservative ideal is that where you were born should not determine where you end up," he says, welling up. "I saw the Conservative Party as the individual fighting against everything to be who they are." Quick, someone tell him about the Labour Party.

Happily, Joe exacts his revenge on the poshos who used to shout "on Ilkley Moor ba' tat" every time he spoke in meetings by revealing the full extent of their bougie-fascism (a Nazi-inspired reworking of "Jingle Bells") to the student paper (cue a shot of sexy student journo, all nonchalance and facial hair). Revenge is sweet as he packs away his tea chest once more, hops into a white van with his mum and heads off to an internship in Washington. "No proper, right-thinking Conservative sings racist songs," says Chris, upon reading of the scandal back in Cambridge. "Let alone poorly composed, musically valueless racist songs." Would he have preferred a musing on Kristallnacht set to Fivestar, perhaps?

Chris's search for notoriety and acceptance continues, despite the CUCA chairman having "lost" his application to join the committee. He just doesn't get it, does Chris.

He doesn't stand a chance in the modern Tory party; he doesn't even remove his bike clips to drink a cocktail. Do I care what happens to him? I couldn't possibly comment.

Harriet's marmalade dropper

Props to Vicky Pendleton this week for accepting silver with grace, despite being elbowed out of the way at the Olympic finish line. I would have shoved that Aussie off the podium.

 

Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week