Far-right MEP’s speech cancelled at London university

Simon Murdoch - 26 04 17

Korwin-Mikke was due to give a speech organised by a conservative student organisation, the Young British Heritage Society (YBHS), at the University of East London on 27 April.

Korwin-Mikke has developed a reputation for frequently voicing far-right views on a range of areas. He has claimed, for example, that women “must earn less than men because they are smaller, weaker, and less intelligent” and that they should not have the right to vote. Regarding the European Migrant Crisis, he claimed that migrants who were unwilling to work and who sought welfare were “human garbage”.

He has even gone as far as to engage in a form of Holocaust denial by claiming that Hitler was unaware of the Final Solution and that efforts to have property stolen from Jews during WW2 returned was part of the “Holocaust Industry”.

YBHS previously co-hosted a talk by author and journalist Douglas Murray on “Migrants, Islam, & Liberal Society”, and launched its society with a speech from ex-Breitbart tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who sits on the organisation’s advisory committee.

According to its site, the “non-partisan” conservative organisation aims to defend conservative and libertarian students, who are “routinely stripped of their right to express their views freely”.

It also believes that the “arbitrary laws on “hate speech”” should be repealed, and that “The looming spectre of PC culture […] seeks to erase our nation’s history”. 

Concerns about limitations on speech were evident in a statement from YBHS founder and chairman Danial Mirza in response to the cancellation. Talking to Heatstreet he claimed that an UEL official cited “a litany of issues [UEL] had never mentioned before”, including “that the event breached the venue’s Prevent policy, and that it was too “one-sided””.

The Prevent duty, part of the 2015 Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, seeks to stop people being drawn into terrorism. With respect to the external speakers in particular, where universities “are in any doubt that the risk [of people being drawn into terrorism] cannot be fully mitigated”, the government’s policy states that “they should exercise caution and not allow the event to proceed”.

However, a spokesperson for UEL rebutted Mirza’s claim that Prevent obligations were cited, telling Heatstreet that: “The reason for taking this decision had nothing to do with our obligations under Prevent”. They pointed out that: “This event was purely external and not aimed at our students or staff.”

Instead, the spokesperson explained that “in addition to the event being advertised before permission had been granted”, UEL’s conferencing team concluded that it would “be [an] unsuitable event to be hosted on our campus”. The spokesperson added that “Our booking conditions […] state clearly that we can terminate any event that “may, in the University’s opinion, prejudice the University’s reputation””.

A Serious Voice for Conservative Students?

The debate over when to curb freedom of speech on campuses has intensified in recent years, and issues over the balance of conservative, left and libertarian voices within universities must be addressed if the discussion is to move forward constructively. However, YBHS’ attempt at positioning itself as a serious representative of a portion of these voices disappears when examining the frequently offensive and intolerant memes and slogans found on its Facebook page:

Such memes and slogans are common across alt-right and alt-light communities online – groups that YBHS would likely wish to distance itself from in its efforts to be seen as a ‘non-partisan’, respectable organisation for students.

However, in maintaining the image it does above, and extending invitations largely to the likes of Korwin-Mikke and Yiannopoulous, it would appear it is more interested in representing the voices of the far right.


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