The world as glimpsed through two headlines…

HERE are headlines from two of our national newspapers. Don’t read them while holding anything precious, as they may make you want to throw things.

First up is The Times with its splash yesterday about the vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, Professor Stephen Toope, saying private schools must accept they will get fewer pupils into Oxbridge.

“Privately educated to lose places at Oxbridge” runs the headline, the implication being that the privileged darlings are being cheated out of their ancient right to attend the top universities, get all the best jobs, and run/ruin the country. A right granted by being born to parents who are wealthy enough to foot the bill.

This is, on one level, how private education works: the school asks for lots of money on the implicit understanding that your child will be put in the fast lane to everything. It’s also how money works, with the better-off state-educated pupils more likely to end up at Oxford and Cambridge than their less wealthy classmates.

Obviously, it’s more complicated than that, but only a bit more complicated. After all, the editor of The Times could have chosen this as a headline: “State educated to win more places at Oxbridge.”

Perhaps everyone is waiting for the results of that great national social experiment that only men who have been to Eton (£45,000 a year, plus an acceptance fee of £3,200 ­– that’s if this old grammar schoolboy understands the school’s website) are allowed to be prime minister.

I think you’ll agree that this experiment is going splendidly.

Here is the next headline, from today’s Daily Mail.


Ah, isn’t that just what they always wanted – headlines about ‘lefty-lawyers’ stopping ‘what the people want’. It’s almost as if this wasn’t so much a serious policy as an invitation to a scrap.

Still, it makes a change from four days of headlines – count them, four whole days – of non-stories about Sir Keir Starmer having a takeaway curry and a beer with colleagues in Durham.

The only reason there isn’t a fifth such story today, at a guess, is because of the ‘purdah’ rules that apply during elections. There are no local elections where I live, but they are taking place widely.

For the media, these rules generally prevent political reporting on the day of an election, and sometimes for the pre-election period too, although the Mail story quoted above is surely political in a wider sense.

Interestingly, this expression is falling out of favour due to its colonial ring. Originally, according to the Cambridge dictionary, purdah refers to “the custom, found in some Muslim and Hindu cultures, of keeping women from being seen by men they are not related to…”

Government departments are now asked to use the rather vague “a period of sensitivity”. Such careful language fits with a general need for consideration, and that’s good, but tellingly it takes four words to replace one.

We are all woke nowadays, and you won’t hear a complaint from me about that. According to a poll mentioned by last Sunday’s Observer, I am not alone in this. Conducted for the Global Future thinktank, this poll found that four in five people are happy to be considered as woke. That is, they are happily alive to issues of race and social justice.

Yup, wake me up and call me woke.

Woke me up before you go-go.

It seems there are more of us woke types than the Daily Mail realises.

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