On Saturday, I was interviewed by a freelance journalist claiming to be working for the Mail on Sunday (a right wing weekly newspaper, for my non-British readers).
It was in response to this article
in Sunday's Observer (a left wing weekly newspaper, for my non-British readers) in which the now Chancellor of the Exchequer was revealed to have been friends with some people who once had a fight in a restaurant. It was also revealed that when he was at university and he ran for the position of Junior Common Room entertainments representative (or 'Entz Rep'), he broke college election rules by a) having five different posters instead of two and b) actually asking people if they would vote for him.
My connection with Mr Osborne is that we were in the same year at Magdalen College, Oxford. He did Modern History, I did Philosophy, Politics and Economics.
My connection with the journalist is that he had previously probed me for information on another dirt-digging foray into Mr Osborne's university past. That time, the Mail had apparently been told the story that George had started out doing PPE but had switched to Modern History because he found PPE, especially Economics, too difficult. Clearly, this would be somewhat embarrassing for the person in charge of the British economy. I did enjoy the idea that Modern History is a sort of cop-out degree for those people not brilliant enough to handle PPE, especially as my wife bunn
did Modern History at Oxford, but I knew that the story wasn't true. I checked with another Magdalen PPEist I'm still in touch with and he confirmed that George did History from the beginning. And according to the journalist, that story was quashed essentially on my say-so.
So kudos to the newspaper that checked its facts and was prepared to drop a story that was good, but wasn't true. And somewhat less kudos to the newspaper that used a full page photo of George Osborne looking stern to illustrate a story that only indirectly concerned him. You have to read some way into the article before you get to this paragraph:
"I think George was mildly alarmed. He was enjoying the food and wine, enjoying watching the football, and I just remember him looking at me with raised eyebrows at what was going on. I never saw him take drugs."
Anyway, the journalist seems a nice bloke, and he's only doing his job, so I gave him some vague stories, said I didn't really know him, but remembered the name, gave him the names of some people who might have known him better and showed him my matriculation photo, in which George has very silly floppy hair (but then he did go to a public school and this was 1990). I don't think he expected to get even that much out of me, and I certainly didn't remember the restaurant fight. The journalist was on his way back from Dawn French's house (she was at the restaurant with Lenny Henry in the early 90s when the fight broke out) and I think just stopped by our place on the off-chance.