The 'woke' clever clogs at Oxford need a lesson in humility - Christa Ackroyd

This week would have been my father’s 94th birthday. We celebrated, because we must always celebrate the lives of our loved ones, with a visit to a picturesque village in North Yorkshire where his ashes are scattered.

Students at a college at Oxford have been criticised for voting to remove a portrait of the Queen from their common room. (AFP via Getty Images)
Students at a college at Oxford have been criticised for voting to remove a portrait of the Queen from their common room. (AFP via Getty Images)

It was a time for quiet contemplation and to give thanks for a man who remains my hero and guiding light. Twenty-two years have passed since he left us so the memories are now largely happy ones, less painful each year since. But, of course, I will always miss him greatly.

Not so long ago his birthday was a time for sad reflection, but then those first few anniversaries after losing those who were once so close are always difficult, always a sharp reminder of the empty seat at the table.

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Which is why this week my heart broke a little to see the Queen accept a rose created in honour of what would have been her beloved husband’s 100th birthday, and why I am so angry at the ridiculous and pathetic antics of a bunch of privileged students at Oxford University who have decided Her Majesty is no longer relevant.

Or somehow responsible for all the wrongdoings of the past. Not only that but her grandson chooses, rather than concentrating on building bridges, to threaten legal action against the BBC over whether she did or didn’t approve the choice of her childhood name of Lilibet for their new baby daughter, supposedly in her honour.

What has the poor woman done to deserve such unwarranted attention? Absolutely nothing. She has done everything to earn our total respect, which she has the world over. Apart from the world of “woke”.

I actually detest the word “woke”. It derives from the word awake or awakening... which is exactly what I want to tell these clever clogs students at Magdalen College in Oxford to do. Wake up and get your facts straight.

And if you want to develop a conscience for others less fortunate there are more important battles to fight than whether a picture of the Queen graces your common room, a common room which is far from accessible to ordinary folks.

Oxford University as a whole may be working hard to redress the balance, but even last year’s figures showed less than five per cent of its intake came from Yorkshire and the Humber, which after this week’s antics may simply show that Yorkshire folk have more sense.

Of course, it is totally acceptable to vote to redecorate your posh communal areas, especially if according to the notes for freshers in 2020 the most exciting thing to say about the “middle common room” is the fact it has an espresso coffee machine and a biscuit tin. Oh and don’t forget to bring your tuxedo and white tie for formal occasions. A “must have” in any working class wardrobe.

But here are a few facts the students led by American and Stanford graduate Matthew Katzman, whose education is estimated to have cost his wealthy parents more than £500,000 so far, perhaps should have considered before taking their principled stand to remove the portrait of the Queen, who, by the way, was given an honorary degree from the college when she was Princess Elizabeth in 1948.

Firstly they should learn the difference between “colonial history” which the Queen is accused of representing but actually has nothing to do with, and the Commonwealth, which she presides over.

Colonialism, the practice of taking over control of another country for economic exploitation, should of course never be celebrated. However, the Commonwealth has nothing to do with colonialism. All 54 members are independent states united by a common allegiance to the Crown. It’s their decision.

Indeed the Commonwealth under our Queen has become an alliance which exists entirely to foster international co-operation and trade links.

This week Dinah Rose, president of Magdalen College, defended the rights of the students and their petty little decision. “Being a student is more than just studying,” she said. “It is about exploring and debating ideas. It’s sometimes about provoking the older generation”.

Well, bully for them. Consider this member of the older generation provoked, not because debate is unimportant but because this particular debate achieves nothing at all. Just as lecturers threatening to effectively go on strike at nearby Oriel College over its refusal to remove a statue of imperialist Cecil Rhodes achieves nothing either.

Are we suggesting we consign all of history to the metaphorical cupboards under the stairs lest it offends? There it would be out of sight and out of mind rather than the subject of constructive debate as to how lessons from the past should influence our actions both as individuals and as a nation in the future.

But then that is exactly what Hitler and Stalin did when they banished books and learning. Or Pol Pot did in Cambodia when he announced Year Zero was the day the nation began again. History was wiped out. As were two million people.

Life, dear students, is about learning that it isn’t always about the young. That respect for those who are older is also a valuable lesson. Which is why my sympathies lie with an elderly lady who this week has been tending a simple pink rose named after a husband who is no longer there to stand by her side.

By contrast, the removal of her portrait by a bunch of know-it all students does not remove her rightful place in history as a woman who has served her country and many others all her life. And will continue to do so. That, dear students, is called a lesson in humility.