Waugh Cited in Latest Cameron Dispute

In today’s Guardian, there is a discussion of the allegations that David Cameron was a member of a secret Oxford club called the Piers Gaveston Society. It was founded in 1977 and named for Edward’s II’s lover. These stories have been accompanied by lurid descriptions of some of the group’s more louche activities. The PM’s office has not responded. In the course of the article. the Guardian distinguishes this club from another Oxford group. This is the Bullingdon Club to which Cameron has admitted membership.

For a definition of the Bullingdon, the paper calls on the writings of Evelyn Waugh who described it in his first novel Decline and Fall:

The Bullingdon is still banned from meeting within a 15-mile radius of Christ Church after members smashed 400 windows at the college in 1927. When Evelyn Waugh published his novel Decline and Fall the following year, he probably did not expect Oxford’s secret drinking club the Bullingdon, or Bollinger as it is satirised in the book, to still be filling headlines in decades to come…For Waugh, the club consisted of “epileptic royalty from their villas of exile; uncouth peers from crumbling country seats; smooth young men of uncertain tastes from embassies and legations; illiterate lairds from wet granite hovels in the Highlands; ambitious young barristers and Conservative candidates torn from the London season and the indelicate advances of debutantes; all that was most sonorous of name and title”.

NOTE (25 September 2015): After the foregoing was written, there have been numerous additional references to the Daily Mail’s original story about the Piers Gaveston Society and David Cameron. This comes from a book entitled Call Me Dave by Michael Ashcroft and Isabel Oakeshott. As excerpted in the Daily Mail, that book (quoting James Delingpole, a contemporary of Cameron at Oxford) identifies a particular importance attached by the Cameron generation at Oxford to the Brideshead Revisited story as it had recently been retold in the 1980s Granada TV version:

“There was a division at Oxford between those of us who wanted to live the Brideshead lifestyle — to ape it — and the people wearing donkey jackets who were in support of the miners…The atmosphere among those of us who wanted to live the Brideshead life was really quite pleasant. There were cocktail parties in the Master’s [head of college] Garden . . . and we could all play at being Sebastian Flyte.”

According to Ashcroft and Oakeshott, “Cameron went a great deal further.” And there follow the lurid details of the Piers Gaveston Society referred to in the Guardian.


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