Alice Jones: What Katie Price can teach the Oxford Union


Related Topics

There are a few things I did at university of which I'm not particularly proud, but near the top of the list is going to see Judge Jules speak at the Union. Why? I don't know.

Why did I leave myself two days to read Crime and Punishment? Why did I wear those trousers? Why did I have that last tequila? These are student riddles whose answers are lost in the mists of time.

The point is that the Oxford Union has always been as much about spurious celebrity as it has been about politics. When I was a student, for every rousing evening with Germaine Greer, there was a procrastinating afternoon with a trance-trousered Radio 1 DJ. When you've paid almost £200 for membership, it's a question of getting your money's worth. And for the thrusting, influence-hungry types on the committee, anyone who can proffer tips on world domination, in whatever form, is worthy of an invitation.

So I wasn't in the least surprised to see Katie Price, aka Jordan, make her debut in a packed chamber this week. Traditionalists were horrified at the sight of the glamour model-turned-empire sitting in the same leather-backed chair in which Winston Churchill, the Dalai Lama and Malcolm X sat, and dispensing wisdom on fame, sex and being a "rich chav". It's dumb, but I'm not sure that it's dumbing down. The role of the Union is to allow students to ask questions of high-profile figures and to stoke a wider debate. Disappointing, though, that they didn't kit Katie out in a pink gown and matching mortar board.

Everybody knows that the real spectacle at Frieze Art Fair is not the paintings, but the people. Sure, there's some interesting work on show, not all of it on the faces of ageing millionaires, but on opening night I was more struck by the sensation that nobody really has a clue what's going on.

Glazed zombies drifted past shouty neons, hanging bananas and phallic towers, never quite looking at anything or anyone properly for fear of missing out on the real attraction. In one corner, the artist Michael Landy gave free drawings to anyone brave/stupid enough to hand over their credit card for "mulching" in his giant, juddering shredder. Who has the upper hand here – the collector with cash to splash, the artist gleefully mopping it up, or the sharp-suited dealer creaming off their cut?

The confusion continued at the after party. Downstairs at the ICA, people muttered that the proper VIP party was upstairs. Upstairs, in a half-empty room, the VIPs panicked that the real party was happening downstairs. The result? A staircase like a scene from a French farce as guests hovered tensely between floors.

Another party last night celebrated Art Review's annual Power 100. This year the magazine's list is topped by Ai Weiwei, only the second artist (after Damien Hirst) to be accorded the honour. There's something gloriously topsy-turvy about a man who spent 81 days in a Chinese prison this year for his outspoken work being hailed as the mightiest player in contemporary art. In a world where the concept of power is as slippery as an Anish Kapoor disc though, it makes a strange kind of sense.

The latest battleground for political point-scoring has been revealed: the glove box. This week, Michael Gove's Skoda was stolen, along with, we are told, his 28-CD set of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, the collected speeches of Ronald Reagan, Wagner's Parsifal, a Best of The Smiths and the Mumford & Sons album. Was he planning to move in to his car and never speak to another human being for all eternity? It reads like a Desert Island Discs parody of an Education Secretary's CD collection, spanning both the curriculum and the political spectrum.

In fact, so smug is the selection, a cynic might think the theft had been stage-managed. Except for one thing: the CDs you stow in your car are the ones you always intend to listen to but never do, aren't they? Which means that Gove probably passes the time in traffic jams listening to Radio 4 or Magic, just like the rest of us.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

British economy: Government hails the latest GDP figures, but there is still room for skepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears