I’m breaking the law by showing you this picture


Yes, that’s Dave, Boris, and the rest of their Old Etonian pals, in purpose-tailored [1] getups, before the notorious Bullingdon Club dinner, which year after year ended in drunken rioting, invading and smashing up the rooms of ordinary students (who were referred to as “trogs” i.e. troglodytes), the occasional debagging (an old tradition; see Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall), and then moving on to more serious stuff like smashing up shops.

And while we’re at it, a few years later here‘s George Osborne, Number 16. Jo Johnson, Boris’s younger brother,is at Number 8.

The Oxford elite: The Bullingdon Club members in 1993 - George Osborne is pictured on the far left next to his swaggering chums

We saw this happening, when I was a student, year after year, and groaned. It would be interesting to see the police records of Dave and Boris’s Bullingdon nights, if they still exist.

But no need to worry. Not only was the State paying their student fees, plus a token minimum grant (not loan), but they knew that daddy would show up with cheque-book and persuade the shop owner not to press charges. In David Cameron’s case, daddy was a hard-working stockbroker, and rose to be senior partner of the stockbrokers Panmure Gordon & Co., now with offices in Switzerland and Singapore, despite the handicap of having had a father and grandfather who were also partners in the firm, and Cameron has pointed him out to us as an example of what can be accomplished by hard work and diligence.

I was hoping you would see a lot more of Dave and Boris enjoying themselves in the run-up to the Westminster election. As I had hoped before the last one. But this was not to be.

In 2007, the copyright owners of the picture suddenly and mysteriously decided to ban its further distribution. I wonder why.

I am glad that the story has now resurfaced. It was the BBC who carried it in 2007; I am not hopeful that they would do the same today.

Just remember, we’re all in this together; Dave said so. And have a thought for what else the people in these photographs have smashed.

h/t Geoffrey Braterman, RealPaulLewis

1] Cost, £1,000, or 200 hours minimum wage earnings, when the story was written. I’m told (see comments) that this was uninflated and should in present day money be £3,500, or pushing 600 hours minimum wages, or 49 weeks benefits living allowance in Glasgow. But remember, that includes the special biscuit-coloured waistcoat. And you do get two more chances to wear it, if you make it into the Club in your first year.

About Paul Braterman

Science writer, former chemistry professor; committee member British Centre for Science Education; board member and science adviser Scottish Secular Society; former member editorial board, Origins of Life, and associate, NASA Astrobiology Insitute; first popsci book, From Stars to Stalagmites 2012

Posted on February 22, 2015, in Politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I say! That Johnson chappie is wearing grey bags. What an oik.


  2. I watched “Boris Johnson The Irresistible Rise” not three days ago. To say he was awkward when he saw this photo would be an understatement.


  3. Dear Professor Braterman

    This sorry post squanders the goodwill of those, like me, who have followed your blog with great interest and enthusiasm, supporting your battles on behalf of the school curriculum.

    Regardless of which side of the political line one stands, this post adds nothing constructive or valuable to any debate. It reeks of envy and pointless mud slinging. What a shame. Please consider the damage it does to your blog and take it down.

    Best wishes


    • As a matter of deep principle, I would not dream of taking down a post merely because it offends or, as you put it, “squanders goodwill”. I am well aware that many readers, including some I know personally, will find it uncomfortable reading. However, I think it makes a number of important points, such as the extent to which the Conservative Party leadership is drawn from a small privileged elite, the double standards that exist in our society, and the ways in which the Conservative Party seeks to manipulate our view of reality.Concern over the suppression or distortion of information is an issue that runs through many of my posts, and it is the attempted (and at least partly successful) suppression of this story that makes it relevant here.

      For the record, since you mention envy, I am not at all envious of David Cameron for having a well earned first class honours degree from Oxford (I’ve got one too), and I am only moderately envious of him for having been able to spend over £1000 of today’s money on a costume worn on at most three occasions, but I am extremely concerned that decisions about such matters as benefits and taxation policy are being taken by a group so many of whose members have spent their entire lives in a comfortable bubble.

      If you can point out any errors of fact or logic in my post, I will acknowledge and rectify them.


      • Inability to recognise that you’ve made a mistake is not a matter of deep principle. I urge you again to take this post down because it positions your blog where it shouldn’t be, given your excellent work. You have engaged me (and I guess many others) in the creationism/education debate, but this post sticks out of the straight-down-the-line, stick-to-the-facts field of rigour in a way that can only tarnish.

        I find it uncomfortable not because of the one-sidedness of its targeting – we might in fact be in agreement on political stance – but because it is so full of innuendo and is completely irrelevant to your blog. It is very easy to trawl the internet for dirt on politicians of all hues, and why stop at politicians? Electricians, Vicars, Airline Pilots, Professors, Librarians – pick a card, any card. It’s just mud slinging.

        You mock them for their uniform, but I guess you robe up for a graduation platform party. You mock them for their terminology, but we all form groups that use our own language structures. You mock them for the very photo, but would every moment of your younger years withstand such scrutiny? Mine wouldn’t. You mock their parents’ wealth, and claim not to be envious. You mock things that you imply they might have done, then claim to be factual and logical and concerned over distortion. You don’t need me to point these out in your post, you know where they are. “And have a thought for what else the people in these photographs have smashed” – what, all twenty eight of them? Show me your evidence. Do you even know who they all are?

        This post is beneath you, Professor. It’s just out of place, and it makes me, one of your blog’s admirers, not want to come back. If this is what you are interested in posting, regardless of which political party you want to have a go at, I don’t want to read your blog any more. In one page it has gone from refreshing, admirable and persistent objectivity to this.

        Take it down Sir, please.


      • Read, considered, disagreed with for reasons stated earlier. If as a result you wish no longer to read whatever I post here, that saddens me.


  4. According to the Wikipedia article on the club, the uniform costs £ 3,500.


  1. Pingback: One riotous Oxford booze-up; two future UK Prime Ministers | Primate's Progress

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