Waugh Cited in Descriptions of Tory Meeting

Several news sources are quoting an unnamed Conservative MP who compared the recent meeting of the Party’s Parliamentary membership to a scene written by Evelyn Waugh. Sky News, for example, put it this way:

In a scene one MP described as like an Evelyn Waugh minor public school assembly, the PM’s arrival was greeted with traditional cheers and thumping of hands against desks. “Maybe they’re banging their heads against the tables,” said a journalist outside.

The meeting was not open to the press. A similar description appeared in BuzzFeed News and was picked up by other news services. The MP was no doubt reminded of the scene from the BBC’s recent adaptation of Waugh’s Decline and Fall where Paul Pennyfeather is introduced to his pupils. It is Prendergast whose arrival is greeted with a burst of applause. When Paul enters his classroom he is met with stony silence which is followed by the students each introducing himself as Tangent:

In a few seconds the room had become divided into two parties: those who were Tangent and those who were not. Blows were being exchanged, when the door opened and Grimes came in. There was a hush.

Silence was restored for the remainder of the period after Grimes gave Paul a walking stick and told Paul to set them something to do. After threatening them with the stick, Paul assigns an essay on “Self Indulgence”: 

There will be a prize of half a crown for the longest essay, irrespective of merit. (Penguin, 2011, pp. 44-45)

It seems unlikely that a stick was made available to the Prime Minister at the Tory Parliamentary Party meeting. While it was not clear if an essay subject was assigned, this one might have suggested itself: “Softer Brexit–Self Indulgence or Self Preservation?”

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