Essex excess

September 15, 1995

Alumni to be proud of nos 7 and 8: Overlooked in the media attention paid to the appointment of John Bercow as adviser to Virginia Bottomley, now shouldering responsibility for Britain's rich heritage, is the Essex connection. As Virginia Garnett, the erstwhile hammer of London's hospitals was a sociology undergraduate at Essex in the 1960s.

Bercow arrived at Colchester a little later, and outraged by the prevailing designer socialism and embryonic political correctness, threw himself into the maelstrom of the now-defunct Federation of Conservative Students, whose extreme ultra-Thatcherite ideologies and boisterous behaviour eventually proved too much even for the then party chairman, Norman (now Lord) Tebbit. FCS was wound up in the run-up to the 1987 general election after it had been taken over by libertarians.

Bercow was the last FCS national chairman and managed to distance himself from other libertarians who later admitted their highly public ideological excesses had blighted their political careers. Bercow astutely managed to combine his political activities with his studies rather more successfully than most of his compatriots, leaving Essex with a first in government and becoming deputy leader of the Tory group on Lambeth Council.

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