Sad thing is, there were any number of vessels in front of which Trenton Oldfield could have swum this year and been able to count on my whole-hearted support.
Had he waited until the summer Parliamentary recess, he could have intercepted the lilo/dinghy/inflatable banana of just about any holidaying MP known to have voted both for war in Iraq and an end to university grants, given him or her a right dunking in the process and I would have gladly held his towel for him.
There are your villains in your fight against elitism, Mr Oldfield: the people who ensured that we have money for the pursuit of military folly but not for educating our young, thus betraying a generation and nudging higher education a little nearer to that wretched place where it is less about talent and more about the size of Daddy’s wallet.
Instead of attacking the system at its heart, sadly, you went to its fringes and in doing so inflicted purely collateral damage. I’m no expert where rowing is concerned and the University Boat Race leaves me utterly cold as a spectacle but I suspect its 18 participants last Saturday are beyond reproach where graft and commitment are concerned. What’s more, the message you received from one of them afterwards – a masterpiece of controlled derision – probably speaks volumes as to their average IQ.
Or did you know better about the worth of these young people before you took it upon yourself to mar what should have been one of the highlights of their lives? Did you know for a fact that, if it was indeed an alliance of brains and money that got them to university, it was money that hadn’t been toiled for long and hard by parents for whom no sacrifice was too great?
Did you even bother to ask yourself that question, or was it purely secondary to making a name for yourself?
I don’t speak from the perch of privilege here. University will, I fear, be financially beyond my own sons, both of whom may well have thrived on the opportunity it afforded them. I hate the political priorities that bring that about but I hate what Trenton Oldfield did last Saturday even more. Partly because people who can’t see the target shouldn’t be throwing punches and partly because his little stunt ultimately achieves only one thing: affirmation that inverted snobbery is every bit as pathetic as the prototype.