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Ex-Labour MP uninvited from speaking at Royal Holloway event

An ex-Labour MP was uninvited from speaking at a Royal Holloway event on Monday due to the university’s No Platform for Hate Speech policy.

Chris Williamson, who was suspended from the Labour Party last year for saying it had been too apologetic in its response to anti-semitism allegations, was supposed to attend an online event run by Royal Holloway Debating Society on Monday evening. 

President of Royal Holloway’s Jewish Society Neil Lavie-Driver, 19, said: “The invitation reflects a great level of indifference to the sensitivities and fears of our small community on campus.”

The event was cancelled after the chair of Runnymede and Weybridge Labour Party Councillor Robert King published a joint letter addressing the President of Royal Holloway’s Debating Society Vaanee Sarihyan. 

The letter said Williamson did not deserve a platform at the university.

Lavie-Driver said: “As someone who has experienced anti-semitic abuse on campus myself, I would at least hope that on-campus institutions and societies would protect our interests and safety as a minority group.”

Williamson was suspended from the Labour Party in February 2019.

He was reinstated in June 2019 but resuspended after two days.

He unsuccessfully fought the suspension in High Court and remains suspended from the party.

Royal Holloway’s Student’s Union released a statement confirming the invitation to Williamson contravened the Guest Speaker Policy introduced last October after the Debating Society invited Katie Hopkins to speak.

The policy claims the Union will prevent individuals with a sustained history of making statements that can be reasonably interpreted as hate speech from entering its premises and speaking at affiliated events.

Sarihyan has been President of Debating Society for one month.

She issued a statement saying she had opposed the event and vowed to resign if it went ahead. 

The Debating Society published a separate statement urging people to be kind.

The statement said: “we are all ordinary students, trying to do the best for our society and the promotion of free speech on campus.”

Please find a statement below on recent events 👇🏻

Posted by Royal Holloway Debating Society on Monday, 5 October 2020

Councillor Robert King spoke to The Tab after the event was cancelled.

He said: “The statement by the Students’ Union and President Roberts is welcome.

“Recognising that bigotry, hate speech, and attacking a person solely because of their particular characteristic is completely separate to free and pluralistic debate is the right tone and sets the precedence moving forward.”

Feature image credit: Laurie Nevay 

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