I’m old enough to remember when the people who students wanted to shut down on campus were real pieces of work: Nick Griffin, Anjem Choudary, fascists or Islamists who, given half the chance, would turn Britain into a bigoted, authoritarian backwater. How quaint that feels now. So low has the bar for censorship on campus sunk, that not only are trans-sceptic feminists as likely to be shut down as the fash these days, but centrist Tories can also find themselves in the crosshairs.
This is the news that Amber Rudd has been no-platformed by a student group at Oxford University. Rudd was due to speak at a UNWomen Oxford UK Society event last night, discussing her time working as women and equalities minister and her experiences as a woman in politics. But an hour before the talk was due to take place, the group put out a statement, saying the event would no longer go ahead and apologising for ‘all and any hurt caused to our members and other wom*n and non binary people in Oxford’.
It seems the event caused a backlash due to Rudd’s ‘past comments or policies’. Presumably this refers to her time as home secretary, a position she resigned from in the wake of the Windrush scandal. But this makes the decision to cancel the talk all the more pathetic. Rudd should be held to account for her role in Windrush. So why not go to the event and challenge her? One of the great privileges of being an Oxbridge student is that prominent politicians will regularly do talks on campus. Why not seize this opportunity?
The small cliques of students who routinely get events shut down on campus tend to see themselves as radical. No-platforming, in their minds, is part of a righteous confrontation with the forces of reaction.