Bow Group Chairman on 'why we must fight the leftist ban on free speech'

Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Ben Harris-Quinney

Why we MUST fight the Leftist thought police banning free speech from our universities

ABOUT twice a month, I travel the length and breadth of our country to speak on university campuses.

Unlike the American university circuit this doesn't come with huge speaking fees and five-star hotels, but at best a watery student union lager and the train fare home. 

As Conservatives we tend to do this, for the privilege of abuse and ridicule from a baying mass of 19-year-old Marxist/remainiacs who consider Tony Blair to be "far right".

I asked one of my fellow travellers, Peter Hitchens, why he bothered to do it after so many years. He said: “Because if I didn't these students would have an education consisting entirely of leftist propaganda and lies".

There speaks a man who in his university days was a Trotskyite, but was saved by broadening his mind beyond the naivete of his fellow students.

It is apparently a privilege for we Conservatives to be on campus, because it is becoming increasingly frequent for Conservative speakers, or anyone who isn't of the hard left, to be banned or unceremoniously "no platformed" (the Student Union practice of withdrawing a speaking invitation).

I run Britain's oldest Conservative think-tank, and it does what it says, promotes Conservatism.

Very little of that has changed in its 65-year history, and Conservatism is, was, and will likely always be an important part of the political and cultural make up of Britain.

Whether you agree with Conservative thinking or not, it must form an important part of any education into politics, economics, philosophy and more. 

In November last year, our Senior Patron Sir Roger Scruton was "no platformed" at Bristol University, over an article he wrote in the 1980s warning against Same Sex Marriage.

Last month, I was ‘uninvited’ from the University of Oxford, and just last week I spoke at Durham University, but the debate was very nearly cancelled after pressure from an unholy alliance of the People's Republic of China and left-wing student activists, apparently on the grounds of "racism".

University, if nothing else, must be a forum for free speech, free thought and free learning.

Never in my student days did I feel the need to pick up a burning torch and attempt to drive out anyone who didn't agree with 100 per cent of my views.

I was more than happy to sit and listen to Charles Clarke waffle on about New Labour without feeling the need to run him out of town.

I was told, however, by a member of the University of London Debating Union that today hearing views that some students disagree with was a form of abuse, and students needed campuses to be "safe spaces". 

City University of London, considered one of the UK's leading journalism schools, last year voted to ban all copies of The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express from its campus. Queen Mary and Plymouth Universities soon followed suit. 

What the Left are attempting to do on campus is create re-education camps, where only that which is sanctioned shall be heard and discussed.

It is, therefore, no wonder that when faced with Brexit, Trump, Wilders, Le Pen, calls for lower immigration and the return to national borders today's students need counselling to cope with reality because it is simply their first contact with it. 

"Spiked" magazine ran their third annual report this week into free speech on campus, it warned that 63.5% of British universities actively censor speech and 30.5% actively stifle it.

Freedom of speech and thought, the purpose of university, is being culled in the majority of Britain's colleges and it is being carried out by the left, against Conservatives. 

It might seem to most that it's just bloody students, at it again, and ‘twas ever thus, except it isn't the students that are behind it.

My experience of universities is that most students go to lectures, go to the pub and go home.

A small minority involve themselves in student politics and activism, and many of that small minority are not even acting under their own steam.

Light investigation uncovers the millions of pounds pouring into universities and student fronted organisations from George Soros’s Open Society foundation and a quite staggering £730 million from the EU, not to mention a host of other Leftist institutions like Stonewall, and. of course. the National Union of Students itself.

Many of us worked for years, some for decades, to make Britain a free sovereign nation again, and it is being undone in the minds of the next generation. Be in no doubt, the plan is to have them take us back into the EU, and much more also.

We, therefore, cannot afford to ignore the Stasi-esque shift in our universities anymore.

Theresa May has thus far only paid lip service to deride the burgeoning "safe-space" culture.

What we need is the same approach to the Student Union as any other union, students should have to opt-in to union membership, rather than opt-out.

I suspect they will see their membership collapse overnight, and their influence to censor and cripple free speech and thought in our crucial higher education centre will go with it.

Failing that, as President Trump said to similar movements at US Universities "Don't like free speech? Go without state funds.”

Read the full article online at: