There is grief, rage and confusion in the UK today as it emerges that a small group of Oxford University students have cancelled the Queen.
A committee of Magdalen College students voted to remove a portrait of Elizabeth II from its graduate common room (also known as a Middle Common Room, or MCR), after deciding that she “represents recent colonial history”, as first reported by Guido Fawkes.
The student organisation represents only 178 postgraduates in the college. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, there are over a quarter of a million postgraduate students in the UK, which means the Magdalen committee members represent approximately 0.07 percent of all postgrads.
Notably, the MCR also does not represent the official view of its college or of the university itself. Although Britain has its fair share of dusty old-fashioned laws that make no sense, it is also not treason to remove a portrait of the ruling monarch. In fact, the last Magdalen alumnus to be accused of treason was Cardinal Wolsey, who was involved in slightly higher stakes political manoeuvring than a bunch of students who organise movie nights and ceilidhs.
Nonetheless, this small committee was powerful enough to summon the attention of three national newspapers – the Daily Mail, the Times and the Express – which all splashed with the story on their front pages.
Education Minister Gavin Williamson was also moved enough to tweet: “Oxford University students removing a picture of the Queen is simply absurd. She is the Head of State and a symbol of what is best about the UK. During her long reign she has worked tirelessly to promote British values of tolerance, inclusivity & respect around the world.”
If only Williamson cared this much about the 8.8 million school kids who had to deal with school closures over the past year, or the 29 percent of all university students who report being “dissatisfied or very dissatisfied” with their education.
The education minister is currently facing sustained criticism for proposing only £1.4 billion to help school children catch up – a fraction of the £15 billion package called for by the education recovery chief, Sir Kevan Collins.
Housing minister Robert Jenrick, never one to shy away from stoking a culture war, was taken by a surprising outbreak of common sense on BBC Breakfast.
“I’m a huge fan and supporter of Her Majesty the Queen. I think we are incredibly lucky to live in a country with a head of state of her stature,” he said. “I wouldn't want anyone to disrespect her out of ignorance in this way, but I don’t think that we should waste too much time on student union politics.”
Magdalen College MCR president Matthew Katzman told MailOnline: “The Royal Family is on display in many areas of the college, and it was ultimately agreed that it was an unnecessary addition to the common room. The views of the MCR do not reflect the views of Magdalen College, and the aesthetic decisions made by the voting members of its committee do not equate to a statement on the Queen.
“Indeed, no stance was taken on the Queen or the Royal Family – the conclusion was simply that there were better places for this print to be hung.”