Owen Jones, Corbyn 2020, and sex in embarrassing places

This article was published in The Cambridge Student on 21 April 2016.

There’s something uncomfortable hanging in the air on the evening I meet Owen Jones for a drink by the river. Something unsaid, lingering like a bad smell.

To be precise, it’s the fact that I once wrote a reasonably lengthy bit of ‘Owen Jones meets Christian Grey’ fan fiction as a series of tweets on a train from Cambridge to London in my first year. We both know that these tweets are, to date, our only form of communication, but it’s probably best left undiscussed.

Similarly uncomfortable is the challenge one heckler shouted out as Jones gave a talk at the Cambridge Literary Festival earlier that day: “Run for Parliament!” I ask him if there’s any chance, and the suspiciously long spiel that follows is best condensed as: ‘I don’t have particular ambitions to do so, but I wouldn’t say no.’

“I think if I became an MP there’d be people going: ‘See, a careerist, ambitious all along, this was all some ploy to become a politician’. You know, it wasn’t.

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‘As a woman, you get screwed over at every stage’: Helen Lewis talks feminism and nice women

This article was published in The Cambridge Student on 21 April 2016.

It’s a sunny afternoon, and in the hustle and bustle of the Cambridge Literary Festival’s HQ at the Union, Helen Lewis, Deputy Editor of the New Statesman, is taking some time out to reminisce with me on the stairs.

“We had proper things to be upset about in my day, and I genuinely think this”, she says, reflecting back on her time as a student at university.

“Having the Iraq War and tuition fees were the best possible things that could have happened for student activism, because everyone really knew what side they were on, there was a very clear enemy and we were all united in the fight against someone else, and I don’t think there’s a defining issue that everybody feels viscerally attracted to, and that makes it harder.

“One of the great things about activism is that feeling of solidarity and that feeling you have of fighting alongside people and changing things is an achievement. It’s much harder now for students now to get that sense of solidarity and achievement.”

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David Aaronovitch: Oxbridge’s ‘absurd snobbery’ and vomiting at Etonians

This article was published in The Cambridge Student on 21 April 2016.

David Aaronovitch is much like you’d expect an opinion columnist to be, which would make sense, as he has written a weekly column for The Times since 2003.

He looks at you with a slightly stern gaze, takes some time after each of my questions trying to work out what angle I’m looking for, and then ploughs into an answer that is simultaneously headstrong, yet considered; argumentative, yet open to discussion.

It’s this temperament that sets him on a clear collision course with a new generation of students, at Cambridge and elsewhere, advocating policies of no- platforming, safe spaces, trigger warnings, and the old controversies we’re all sick of hearing about.

It’s a dangerous topic to get him started on. “What I see is a generation of student politicians which is incredibly up its own arse, just to the nth degree, inventing things which can make politics about it rather than about the wider world.

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10 things I hate about Cambridge: CUSU – and not just because everyone else does

This article was published in The Tab on 29 April 2016.

In his first column, JACK MAY takes aim at CUSU, and fires the kind of shade the likes of which Cambridge has never seen.

I’ll be honest with you, Tab readers. I am a traitor.

I’ve spent the past two years of my life working for The Cambridge Student (TCS), that newspaper you spot sometimes in the faculty library and find yourself using as a coaster the next week.

I edited that paper twice, have been on its pompous-sounding Board of Directors for over a year, and made most of my closest friends in the dank and dusky basement office CUSU saw fit to give us.

For what it’s worth, TCS actually gave me a shred of respect for CUSU. Working in the same building as them for two years, I’ve seen first-hand that your sabbatical officers work incredibly hard (or at least I think they do, judging by the amount of complaining they do).

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University’s business guru dismisses links to ‘Panama Papers’ law firm

This article was published in The Cambridge Student on 4 April 2016.

The Chair of the Judge Business School’s Advisory Board is one of many Cambridge figures who were today revealed to have connections to offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca, which has been subject to the largest ever leak of confidential documents.

Lord Bilimoria is a crossbench peer in the House of Lords as well as being an Honorary Fellow of Sidney Sussex College since 2007, and is one of the shareholders of a Virgin Islands company called Mulberry Holdings Asset Limited.

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Backbench Hot Take: ‘Consider yourself a party-starter? Now’s your best chance’

This article was published in Backbench on 3 April 2016

Across the nation, poll cards have landed gently onto doormats. The elections taking place in May won’t change anything seismic, but are interesting thanks to a uniquely large pool of floating voters.

Labour under Corbyn has alienated scores of moderates; the Liberal Democrats have lost their local footholds and are adrift under a drab leader; UKIP has dropped off the political map but soldier on pointlessly under Farage’s endlessly loony tyranny; the Greens are somewhere; and the Conservatives are self-combusting on Europe, the minimum wage, benefit cuts, and just about anything else they can get their hands on. Never in recent political history have all the main parties simultaneously been in such total disarray.

The ‘morning after’ prognosis, therefore: my money’s on not very much happening at all. Turnout is always low at local elections – the estimate for 2014 was 36% – but I expect turnout this time to be drastically lower still. Voters with nobody they can fully support just don’t bother.

The key point of all this? If there’s ever been a time to start a new party, this is it. The best bet at this point would be a moderate centre-left-ish coalition of Lib Dem types, Blairites, and Tories who think taking billions from the disabled is a bit off. Paint the post-Brexit Tories as irresponsible, accrue support, win by-elections, and play the long game under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. Not since the mass enfranchisement of the early 20th century has there been a better time to strike out with something new.

The key question: who’s going to come up and get this party started?

Giving in on class lists shows Cambridge’s failure on student democracy

Published in The Cambridge Student on 02 April 2016

By the time it gets around to mid-June, you can bet that at least 60% of those sauntering up to the class lists outside the Senate House will be ‘tired and emotional’ in some way other other, whether through horrendously cheap Sainsbury’s Cava, or the sheer horror of the hangover currently clouding all five of their senses.

The end of the Cambridge year is an enormously amicable time. Friends giggle merrily at each other as they cycle side-by-side over Orgasm Bridge, you actually almost mean it when you say ‘don’t worry it’s fine’ to whomever just spilled Pimms’ on your trousers, and there’s a chance you even manage to break a smile as you saunter past the token college homophobe.

There is, naturally, a minority of the student population for whom this time causes immense distress focussed squarely on the issue of results. For these individuals, the publication of class lists outside the Senate House is genuinely distressing, and we should not cast aside their concerns lightly.

That being said, for the vast majority of the student population the Senate House experience is harmless, amicable, and nicely quaint, which makes the University’s move towards abolishing the practice a little confusing.

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