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What’s new? My class of 1980 got there first


In around 1980, I was a member of the council of the Oxford University Student Union (OUSU). Students then also rebelled against party politics, and voted for an “independent” candidate as president. He too wanted to disaffiliate from the NUS and dish out free beer at student union meetings. He scored a convincing win.

His party was called the Bernadista Silly Party, because he bore a remarkable resemblance to Bernard Levin. He replaced a right-on female Labour OUSU president, Lesley Riddoch (Wadham), and an era of lefty protest ended.

But party politics soon resumed. As a sort of reprisal, the OU Labour Club instructed its members to boycott the Oxford Union (president; William Hague, Magdalen). So Labour “hacks”, as they were called, had to make do with OUSU and I often found myself sat next to Jacqui Smith (Hertford). The other Labour politico from that era was John Grogan (St John’s). John served as MP for Selby until 2010, and is now chair of the Mongolian-British Chamber of Commerce.  So yes, training ground for Labour hacks, but maybe not the best preparation for politics.