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Quango - A Few Last Words on Trenton Oldfield

Did the river police really catch the Emily Davison of our times in their twat-net?

by Gavin Haynes
11 April 2012, 2:15pm

Photo via

Politics. It's not all think tanks reporting on the regressivity of a slight lowering of the pre-tax pension allowance, y'know. Sometimes it's lesbians (lesbians!) abseiling into the Parliament armed with nothing more than their trendy alternate sexuality and a vicious hatred of Section 28. Sometimes it's divorced dads scaling Parliament dressed as Batman. Sometimes it's several divorced dads throwing condoms full of purple-dyed flour at the Prime Minister and being ejected from Parliament. Hell, sometimes it's a whole load of divorced dads invading the stage of The National Lottery: Jet Set and waving supportive placards in such a manner that the start of the Eurovision Song Contest 2006 is delayed for a full six minutes.

Direct action is terrorism for beginners. It's what you do when you have limited access to weapons-grade plutonium, but know a guy who can get you all the eggs and flour you could ever need. It's Baader-Meinhof with bananas instead of Berettas. If you've got a cause that you're not prepared to die for, then this is the political end-game for you.

Last Saturday, direct action found its most butt-clenching declension in a man who made himself a suffragette against elitism, an Emily Davison for our times, throwing himself under the King's horse of privilege, and being trampled to death (well, to a slightly soggy afternoon in a holding cell) by the hooves of people not quite understanding what it is he's on about and, to be perfectly frank, not really being arsed and pretty much wondering aloud whether he doesn't have something better to do with his time.

While Samantha and Jared gathered by Putney's sacred waters to "Pimm's o'clock" themselves towards some post-Boat Race upper class sexual intercourse, just out of their line of sight, an unhappy man who had taken against them was slipping into his wetsuit. Trenton Oldfield swam between the Oxford and Cambridge boats, very nearly earning himself a woody beheading. The race had to be stopped while someone got the long twat-net they keep for such occasions and scooped him from the Thames. Oxford, who had been leading, broke an oar after the restart and at the end one of their racers had to be admitted to hospital after collapsing from exhaustion.

As Oxford rowers tweeted elegant defences of the soul-enhancing nature of sporting competition, Oldfield, upon his release from Feltham Magistrates Court, had only a few blunt words for the press pack: “It's a protest. Read the blog.”

So we read the blog. The first thing that strikes you about the blog is that it seems like the work of a man with a rather slapdash approach to the one act he will be always associated with. Say, for instance, that before piloting AA Flight 11 into Tower 1, Mohammed Atta had failed to put a sub-head on his off-the-peg blog, so that the sub-head space still read “A great space for a subtitle”, and the sidebar read “Make good use of your sidebar” – would we have even bothered to invade Iraq and Afghanistan? “These people don't give a shit about their own cause, sir,” Donald Rumsfeld would have briefed Dubya. “It's no dice. You just can't win against people who can barely be bothered to stand up for what they believe in. It's like trying to fight jello.”  

The second thing that strikes you within all that word soup is that his 2,127-word reasoning makes John Hinckley Jr's reasons for shooting Reagan “in order to impress Jodie Foster” seem like a masterstroke of realpolitik clarity. “Everyone will remember some of their history lessons... where people have been taken advantage of by people that believe themselves somehow better, more entitled than another individual or group of people. Most recently this has included the enclosure and eviction from the commons, transatlantic slavery, imperialism and colonialism, fascism, holocausts, genocides and dictatorships and migrant labour camps”. A helpful aside to those of us who thought that the course of human history was chiefly defined by Brian Eno's Music For Airports, the invention of the Cheezie Peperami and the advent of Hello Kitty. Thankfully, the Marx of our day is at hand with an answer to all this nastiness. One so piercingly simple it's just got to work: ban elites.

So it goes on, at length, a turgid stew of the blindingly obvious and the ridiculously unworkable. Oldfield's chief crime is not that he writes like a paranoid schizophrenic – though there is a tang of yer typical "everything's connected" to it. His main problem is that he writes like what he is: a man with a degree in contemporary urbanism from LSE, comfortable with reeling off tuppeny sociology and flatulent open rhetorical questions by the fistful. Most incredibly of all, he really does have the moxy to compare himself to Emily Davison, the suffragette killed when she ran under the King's horse at Epsom 99 years ago.

He then offers a list of things to make and do for all the eager disciples he imagines his actions will garner:  

If you clean the bathroom of someone that considers themselves elite or is an elite sympathiser, like a right-wing professor, can you never put loo paper in their bathroom?

If you are a taxi driver can you take the passenger the slowest possible and most expensive route?

If you work in a restaurant where elitists eat, can you serve the food once it is cold or cook the wrong food?

The answers to all of which are: “No, because I'll get the sack.” And also, “Sorry, I'm not reading this because I'm a real person with a proper job changing bog rolls for rich folks, so I can't say I'm too keen on the sort of content-free meta-analysis you're serving up, because, as previously stated, I am too busy changing bog rolls.”

“If you have a tow truck company can you park in front of Nick Clegg or David Cameron’s driveway, accidentally? Could you tow their car away?”

Correct answer being: “No, because David Cameron lives in Downing Street and I will be shot dead by MI5.”

Faced with such voluptuous retardation, you could almost feel the ancient feudal fabric knitting tighter together on Saturday. With a hundred men like Oldfield, we'll be ruled by arse-trumpeting Sun Kings eating quail eggs full of caviar forever more. Citizens! Away from the barricades!

Follow Gavin on Twitter: @hurtgavinhaynes

Illustration by Cei Willis

Previously: Quango - George Galloway's High Infidelity

Cambridge University
Oxford University
Vice Blog
The Boat Race
Trenton Oldfield
direct action
Emily Davison