“Champagne socialism”: Guardian under fire for May Ball sponsorship

Olly Hudson 20 March 2015

Peterhouse May Ball has found itself the subject of inter-paper trolling this week, after The Spectator revealed the event is to be sponsored by The Guardian.

With prices starting at £350 per pair of tickets, The Guardian’s association with one of only two white-tie balls in Cambridge has seen accusations of “champagne socialism" levelled at the left-leaning newspaper.

Noting that The Guardian “never misses an opportunity to remind David Cameron of his Bullingdon Club past”, The Spectator’s 'Coffee House' blog wonders if King’s May Ball would have been a more appropriate recipient of the Guardian’s funds, given that the college “used to have a hammer and sickle hanging in their college bar.”

Kings College does not have a ‘May Ball’, and while the presence of the communist flag in the bar has generated increased controversy in recent years, it is yet to be removed.

However, in a recent twist, the Peterhouse May Ball committee has released a public statement clarifying that the Guardian's support will be limited to supplying free papers to be handed out to guests. 

Peterhouse students have been swift to join The Spectator’s criticism of The Guardian’s support of their college’s triennial ball. First-year Petrean Julian Sutcliffe told The Cambridge Student: “It’s not very surprising seeing literal champagne socialism from The Guardian, but it is peculiar seeing it supporting a college with such a controversial political reputation.”

Peterhouse gained a reputation for Thatcherite politics during the 1980s, counting Conservative ex-cabinet ministers Michaels Portillo and Howard amongst its alumni.

Others were more forceful in their condemnation, with one student commenting: “I’m furious about the perceived ideological indoctrination implicit in the involvement of a clearly socialist ‘news’ organisation in an event geared towards students, especially with the importance of the upcoming general election and the student vote.”

One second-year Petrean was, however, more supportive: “I think it makes sense that The Guardian would want to sponsor the best brains in the country.”

Ewan Day-Collins was also among the more supportive voices: "I welcome the subsidy to my preposterously expensive may ball ticket, and am heartened by this warm message of solidarity with the struggling comrades of Peterhouse."

TCS also approached the treasurer of the ball, Dean Stephen Hampton, who declined to comment. 

Peterhouse May Ball is scheduled to take place on the 17th June, and counts Oxford Summer College among its primary sponsors.

UPDATE: This article has been updated on 23/03/2015 to reflect the newly emerged fact that the Guardian's support will take the form of free papers with no direct financial element.