Five-in-a-bed, 'nookie rooms' and midnight runs round medieval quads wearing little more than baby oil; the exploits of the country's current political elite in their undergraduate days at Oxford read more than a little bit like Brideshead Revisited. So it will come as no small embarrassment to them that it has all indeed been revisited.
Michael Gove, William Hague, Labour's Eagle sisters Angela and Maria and a number of other Conservative MPs all feature prominently in the dusty archived gossip columns of Oxford University's student newspaper, The Cherwell, which are suddenly seeing the light of the day.
"Union hacks in five-in-a-bed romp shocker" is the headline above one story, which claims that the now Education Secretary Michael Gove, and two of his male friends, repaired to the chamber of two female undergraduates after a ball.
"Since the evening in question there have been many tight-lipped 'no comments' about what they all got up to," Cherwell reported, in 1988. "Gove claims he was only seeking comfort after being beaten up in Aberdeen on Boxing Day."
Later poor Mr Gove, then just 20 years old, apparently ended up quite literally fighting, to win back the affections of a former love, one Marianne Gilchrist.
"Gilchrist packed in poor Gove just as his term as president ended and is now hotly debated by stripling Duncan Penny. At a showdown on Friday, Gove's jealousy got the better of him and he scrambled egg all over Penny's hair. He [Penny] managed to respond by reaching for his fridge and splattering the Honourable Gentleman with a tomato. In a fit of Hulkman rage Gove broke into Penny's room at two in the morning and fire-hosed his sleeping body. Unfortunately Gove somehow was unable to hit the mark and Penny wasn't aroused . . ."
The remarks appeared in the paper's gossip column written by one 'John Evelyn' (Mr Evelyn was a prominent diarist and contemporary of Samuel Pepys. He died in 1706 and so could not be reached for comment), and so should certainly not be regarded as fact. But elsewhere Cherwell's journalists pass verdict on the man who would be King (of the Union), and arguably the unlikeliest heartthrob in the near millennia that has passed beneath the dreaming spires. "Michael conceals his rabidly reactionary political views under a Jane Austen cleric-like exterior but has been known to denounce equality of opportunity as 'leftish shibboleth'," the paper claims. "But the worst thing about this precocious pin-up is that he is, in fact, disgustingly unambitious and talented."
Other tales refer to a 'nookie room' into which disappeared Labour's shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle, in the company of two boys at a joint 21st birthday with her sister Angela, shadow leader of the Commons. "As the noise of her squeaking leather trousers reached fever pitch, twin sister Angela moved in to even the odds with her zoom lens camera," John Evelyn claims.
"A myth," Angela Eagle told The Sunday Times, who reprinted the reports. "It was a very enjoyable occasion but no nookie room. Parents and other family were in attendance as well as friends, ie it wasn't that sort of party." Maria Eagle added: "I remember my mum and dad were at the party so it can't have been that disgraceful."
In 1986, Mark Field, then outgoing junior common room president of St Edmund Hall, and now Tory MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, was photographed running "round the front quad between the strokes of midnight singing the Red Flag and wearing only a pair of boxer shorts, having been liberally covered with baby oil by girlfriend Alison Cooke".
"Yes, that was me," Field admitted yesterday.
William Hague is variously referred to as "Vague" and "Puffing Billy Hague", and one occasion in 1982, "the cuddly conservative from up north. Chipmunk-chops [who] put the tory into oratory".
And as for the Mayor of London:
"Balliol's blond bumshell [sic] seems to be favourite in this term's union presidential election, [despite being] regarded by most experts as having an intelligence somewhat lower than his shaglike fringe."
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