Picturing Hypocrisy

Magdalen College Middle Common Room, a student body connected to the Oxford college, is to remove its portrait of the Queen. It reminds those sensitive souls of ‘colonialism’. The move is “about our communal space and making people feel welcome." It is with some irony that the world’s most prominent female, whose reign was characterised by decolonisation, should now be targeted by these woke warriors.

I did a little digging and found that Magdalene’s student intake draws disproportionately from the privately educated, which generally means the richest strata of society. Only 52.8% of its students come from the state sector in 2020, despite the entire university having a figure of 60.3%. A whopping 93% of the national population attend state schools, which begs several questions about why people from poorer backgrounds are either not applying, or have their applications rejected. Furthermore, the college’s private financial endowments amounted to £332.1 million in 2019, in addition to monies generated by charging fees. Any Magdalene students wishing to object to privilege might look closer to home, and ask why they apparently prefer to educate the children of the rich. Anyone wishing to be ‘more welcoming’ might consider their own college’s admissions processes.

Inequality, prejudice and snobbery are real blights on our society, and all people should do what they can to counter them. But removing the picture of a constitutional monarch is little better than last year's shenanigans on Bristol’s quayside. Toppling statues of slave traders, and gleefully filming them on mobile phones containing cobalt likely mined by one of Congo’s 40,000 child labourers, is hypocrisy extraordinaire. Gimmicks, gestures and motions make us feel good, but otherwise achieve little. While students remove the portrait, I shall continue to pray for Queen Elizabeth, for her government and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.