The fourth and last time I debated at the Oxford Union was three or four years ago, and it was a total disaster. The motion was that Katrina’s aftermath was Bush’s fault, and I was against it. A quarter of a century before that, Auberon Waugh and I had wiped out the opposition under the leadership of a very young — in his twenties — Charles Moore. Another victory followed some years later, though the subject escapes me as if in a dream. A beautiful young student asked me if it was true that I went to Annabel’s every night and whether I would take her there — which I did, and we spent the next week hiding from her outraged father. Charlie Glass and I made mincemeat of Lord Parkinson and Nicholas Soames about five years ago, and then I hit a snag with Katrina.
I was up last, and blaming Louisiana’s crooked politicians for having pocketed the federal funds allocated for flood protection, when an extremely obese African-American student asked to be recognised. ‘I almost starved to death waiting for the government to help,’ she began, whereupon I interrupted her interruption with, ‘Well, you could do with a bit of a diet…’ Well, I never! Had I streaked in front of Queen Victoria’s funeral cortège, the reaction would have been milder. Young people booed and some walked out. A particularly annoying type in front of me — yes, he was wearing an anorak — screamed that I was drunk (he was half right) and the lady in question burst into tears. For once I was at a loss for words. It was all downhill after that and I haven’t been invited back.
Which brings me to the point I wish to make.