Oxford Union faces backlash after inviting Steve Bannon to speak at event

Oxford Union faces backlash after inviting Steve Bannon to speak at event

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Oxford Union has been criticised for inviting the former advisor to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon to speak at an event on Friday.

The former Chief Strategist to the US President will speak at a Oxford Union event before answering questions from the audience.

The event was announced at short notice at 11:26am on Wednesday, and a protest against Mr Bannon has already been organised.

Stephen Horvath, President of the Oxford Union, said: "I am sure that there will be people who challenge the value of free speech in relation to this invitation.

"The event with Mr Bannon provides an opportunity for our members to hear from an individual who has been at the centre of the rise in right-wing populism, as well as to critically question and debate the ideas and rhetoric of Mr Bannon.

"It is only through listening to the opinions of others that we can fully understand those opinions.

"Whether we are inclined to agree or disagree with them, there is a profound intellectual value in critically thinking through why it is that we agree or disagree instead or just rejecting them out of hand."


'Dangerous and negligent' 

Campaign groups, Oxford Stand Up To Racism and Oxford Unite Against Fascism, have organised the protest, and said that they wanted to send a message that he was "not welcome”.

Ian Mckendrick from Oxford Stand Up To Racism said that Mr Bannon was looking to figures such as Tommy Robinson as a "key figure for his movement".

“At a time of rising racist attacks and increased far right and fascist activity in the UK this is dangerous and negligent of the peace and safety of Oxford's diverse community," he said. 

Earlier this year Mr Bannon told a National Front crowd in France to "wear" accusations of racism "as a badge of honour". 

An open letter has also been started calling for the Oxford Union to cancel the event. 

The event is being organised for Oxford Union members only and no bags are being permitted into the event.

The Oxford Union announcement comes after Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon withdrew from an event in Edinburgh because Mr Bannon was one of the main speakers.