A former Ukip Member of European Parliament (MEP) has been banned from speaking at the University of Stirling. Godfrey Bloom – who was MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber between 2004 and 2014 – was due to conduct a talk in conjunction with the University’s Libertarian Society. Bloom was set to talk about Scottish independence to the society. However, the event will no longer go ahead, with the Student’s Union of the University of Stirling stepping in to cancel the event. Read on for more.
As seen in the above Tweet, the Libertarian society were very disappointed at the decision. Their Tweet suggested ‘Freedom of Speech on campus is dead’. They claim that the event had been approved back in December. But this changed when some students complained. Bloom was set to make a case for Scottish independence – while using a Libertarian economic rationale. The society noted that the event was taking place outside of University hours, and was therefore optional to attend.
Meanwhile, the Stirling Student’s Union released a statement, saying the event had been cancelled due to a ‘documented record of the speaker acting in a way which is inconsistent with our policies’. Astrid Smallenbroek, the President of the Stirling Union, mentioned the University were ‘committed’ to upholding values of ‘equality, diversity and inclusion’. The Libertarian society suggested the students who complained ‘pressured’ the Union into cancelling the event – a decision that left them ‘bemused’.
Bloom responded by saying he was ‘bewildered’ at the decision, which he also called a ‘shame’. He went on to state that he believed the decision had been made due to his ‘alternate’ opinions. Bloom has appeared in similar talks at both Oxford and Cambridge in the last 12 months. Bloom has attracted controversy in the past for a number of incidents. In 2013 he referred to countries who receive foreign aid as ‘bongo bongo land’. He eventually departed Ukip in 2014, before serving his final few months as MEP as an independent. He didn’t stand at the 2014 election.
The response to the decision has been mixed. This is far from the first case of an event featuring a sensitive topic being cancelled. But this does raise serious questions over whether or not freedom of speech is diminishing at Universities – which would be dangerous. Just last month, London-based University College London were praised for their decision to allow Hen Mazzig – a prominent Israeli speaker – to speak at a society event at the University, despite considerable opposition.
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A controversial case. While complaints were made to the Student’s Union, it is apparent a Student’s Union in any case should represent all students. While there are many controversies around Bloom’s past, freedom of speech is an important part of life at a University. On this occasion, the talk wasn’t allowed to take place.