Timothy Garton Ash, Profesor of European Studies at Oxford and author of several books, mostly about Eastern Europe, has brought Brideshead Revisited into the debate about removing a statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College. The demand for removal was led by an ad hoc group called Rhodes Must Fall. In his article in the Guardian, Prof. Ash says both the movement and Oriel have made a valid point:
It was a brilliant stroke of student activism to identify that obscure statue as the target. Every newspaper could print photographs of the honeystone facade in which it stands, looking Brideshead Revisited-cliché Oxford. Dave Spart biffs Evelyn Waugh.
Daily Telegraph readers would predictably chunter and international media pick up the story. The statue was just big enough to command attention and just small enough for there to be a sporting chance of something being done. In the event, Oriel College first said it was going to have a big debate about it and then, reportedly under pressure from donors, abruptly declared the statue would not be taken down – thus giving the Rhodes Must Fall activists an even better story. I foresee a bright political future for these guys.
David Spart is a left-wing activist well known in Britain but does not seem to have been directly involved in the Rhodes Must Fall movement. In this case, he has become a metaphor rather than an actual rouser of Oxonian rabble. Prof. Ash goes on to support Oriel’s decision to leave the statue undisturbed but credits the students with forcing Oxford to face the issue of its historic support for imperialiam. The statue is in fact rather unimposing, as it is set into the High Street facade of Oriel well above street level and rather hard to notice unless one is intent on finding it. See photos and video in this Daily Telegraph article by Harry Mount, also supporting Oriel’s decision.