Just don't say no north of Oxford

9th June 2000 at 01:00
I MUST say, this whole Laura Spence thing has left me outraged. How dare she turn down a fine university like Edinburgh? There can be no possible explanation for Laura's snooty behaviour, except pure blind prejudice. I said as much to John Prescott down the arts centre the other night.

Prescott's a decent fellow but he's inclined to be a bit muddle-headed. At first, he thought the real scandal was Laura herself being rejected by Oxford University and swore the admissions tutors weren't doing their job properly.

"Damn it, they're supposed to admit people," he bellowed, "not turn them down."

"But John, what happens if there are far more well-qualified candidates than places?" I asked. "It's a bit like four people standing for your parliamentary seat. Only one of you can get in."

"In that case they should always give places to people from up north," said Prescott, "because all northerners are working-class and the working classes have a right to go to Oxford!" I like John Prescott. His heart is in the right place. I just wonder where his brain is sometimes. When my last bookwas turned down by an American publisher, Prescott was all for going round there and punching someone. "Just because you're a working-class northerner they think they can turn you down."

"But I'm not a working-class northerner," I reminded him.

"Oh that's all right then," said Prescott. "Those editors have got to exercise their judgment. Else what's the point of having editors?"

It's never easy to be turned down. When I worked for the BBC I was always meeting playwrights with tales to tell about why their work wasn't broadcast.

Often they claimed the head of drama didn't like them, that their play was too controversial or that they weren't sleeping with the right person. In 10 years no one ever said to me "They turned down my play because it wasn't good enough."

Now I'm not saying Laura Spence wasn't good enough for Oxford but people whose job it is to make decisions must be allowed to make those decisions.

Prescott agrees with me: "Providing they don't turn down anyone working class."

And I agree with him, as long as no one turns down Edinburgh.

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