Trenton Oldfield spoiled the boat race and my morning

In 2012 the Australian Trenton Oldfield dived into the Thames and disrupted the Boat Race in the name of equality. He felt that elitism, of which the Boat Race was a toxic symbol, led to tyranny. The bizarre stunt was Trenton’s way of expressing his protest.

Since in those days mainstream papers still tolerated my presence, I wrote a piece about the poor man, blaming it all on his alma mater, the LSE. Since then Oldfield served seven weeks in prison, after which the Home Office ordered his deportation.

He appealed and an Asylum and Immigration Tribunal ruled in his favour. The gist of Oldfield’s argument was that if he was forced to leave the UK he wouldn’t be able to take his half-Indian wife and his quarter-Indian daughter back down under because Australians were “passive aggressive racists”.

As this put Oldfield in the news again, broadcast media looked for people to interview, and my name came up. I received a phone call, ostensibly to ask for an interview the next morning and surreptitiously to vet my suitability.

Ever the publicity hound, I agreed to the former even though that meant rearranging my plans – and miserably failed the latter.

“Are you happy that Trenton Oldfield won his case?” asked the researcher, in a tone brooking no disagreement.

“Er…,” I said. “I’m not sure.”

“But he has a right to protest, doesn’t he?” insisted the young lady, stressing all the key words.

“Yes he does,” I agreed. “But he forfeits that right when he breaks the law.”

“Don’t you think he was already adequately punished for that?”

“Perhaps,” I said. “I promise to consider this properly by tomorrow.”

Tomorrow never came, in the sense that the young lady didn’t ring me the next morning, as she had promised. Neither did she offer any explanation or apology, but then one doesn’t expect even elementary courtesy from today’s lot.

But I can’t fault the girl for perspicacity of a bloodhound acuity. Having sensed that my thoughts would be unfashionable, she vigilantly protected her listeners’ sensibilities.

However, had I miraculously slipped through her sieve, this is roughly what I would have said. I trust you won’t be offended.

What does ‘passive aggressive racist’ mean? In any context it’s oxymoronic. In the context of Australia, it’s moronic tout court. My Aussie friends tell me all sorts of horrid things about their country, but never do they suggest that a little quarter-Indian girl would be in mortal danger there.

Yet presiding Judge Kevin Moore accepted this idiocy as a valid reason to defy Theresa May and block Oldfield’s deportation.

“There’s no doubt of your character and the value you are to UK society generally,” said the judge in his concluding remarks. Well, speak for yourself, Your Honour.

Mr Oldfield’s character is at best odd and his value to UK society is at best nonexistent. But that’s only at best.

Protesting against inequality is like protesting against the grass being green or the sky being blue. Contrary to what the US Declaration of Independence says, all men are created unequal in every relevant category, and this will always be reflected in their social and economic status. Such is the way of the world and, like it or hate it, we must live with it.

Even if, as an LSE alumnus, young Trenton doesn’t accept this as a theoretical proposition, he still can’t ignore the supporting empirical evidence. Not a single place exists now, nor has ever existed, where inequality has been expunged. Not to see this, one has to be either blind or stridently cretinous. And Oldfield is fully sighted.

Granted, one can’t help being stupid. However one can and must refrain from expressing stupidity through criminal acts, like disrupting one of the world’s most venerable sporting events. Failure to exercise such self-restraint brings Oldfield’s character into considerably more doubt than Judge Moore allowed.

I’d describe Oldfield’s character as that of a stupid, borderline mad, potentially dangerous firebrand. Anyone familiar with the evidence supporting this assessment has to see Oldfield’s “value to UK society in general” as negative – unless we’re talking of nuisance value.

Does this mean he should have been deported? I’m still not sure – even though I would have welcomed such an outcome on purely aesthetic grounds.

Our 2007 law says that any alien jailed for more than 12 months must be deported when he comes out. Personally, I think that, to borrow Mr Bumble’s phrase, this law is ‘a ass’. Surely any alien convicted of a felony must be thrown out – we have enough of our own undesirables.

But, to borrow a Latin phrase, dura lex, sed lex. Loosely translated, this means the law may be ‘a ass’, but it’s still the law. Until it’s changed, as this one should be, no  provision will exist for the automatic deportation of relatively minor offenders.

Other than that, and I know I’m waxing downright relativist, this case must be considered in the context of others. Justice can’t be seen to be done if punishment for various crimes is out of synch with their comparative gravity.

For example, if a burglar gets a lighter punishment than someone who lies to the police about a speeding violation, justice in general is diminished. Extending this logic to Oldfield’s case, let’s remind ourselves that the Home Office took 11 years to deport Abu-Qatada – and only managed to do so when the Jordanian government graciously agreed to take him back.

Other preachers of hate and terrorism, regardless of their citizenship, continue to ply their business with impunity in mosques throughout the country. Throwing Oldfield out against this background would have been an act of absolute justice but relative injustice.

Hence, on its own puny terms, the Tribunal’s decision was right. What is desperately wrong is that Britain no longer has the moral strength to pass and enforce laws providing for swift and assured expulsion of undesirable aliens. Such as Oldfield – and thousands of worse ones.







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