Tories to ‘step up’ speaking programme at universities in support of free speech


The Conservatives have vowed to “step up” their speaker programme across UK universities in response to the threats to Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg by far-left activists last week.

Mr Rees-Mogg became embroiled in a scuffle on Friday at the University of the West of England, Bristol, where he had been scheduled to give a speech to several hundred students.

Videos of the event showed a group of protesters shouting anti-Conservative slogans, and demanding the MP for North Somerset be given “no platform”.

Intimidation and abuse

The protest soon descended into pushing and shoving, as Mr Rees-Mogg attempted to intervene in the disturbance.

A group known as the Bristol Anti-Fascists later claimed online that they had disrupted the event in protest against Mr Rees-Mogg’s “homophobic and anti-abortion beliefs”.

As a result, the Tory party has launched an online petition to support “free speech against violence, intimidation and abuse in politics”.

The party has also pledged to increase the number of speaking events it will take part in at universities across the country.

Brandon Lewis MP, Conservative Party Chairman, said: “The Conservatives believe in fairness in society and we are taking crucial steps to protect free speech and end abuse in politics – it is disappointing that Labour have not signed up to the same measures.”

In an email to supporters, Mr Lewis added: “”Young people have a right to hear all sides of the political debate. So we’ll protect free speech by stepping up our speaker programme – making sure Conservative voices are heard in universities across the country.”

Utterly condemned

Politicians from across the spectrum voiced concerns about Mr Rees-Mogg’s treatment, however, including several from the Labour Party.

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner tweeted: “My politics are not those of [Jacob Rees-Mogg] however I utterly condemn the behaviour of those tonight who tried to attack him whilst he was due to speak at an event he was invited to. It’s extremely intimidating for any MP who travels alone to an event to be treated like this.”

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Jo Swinson said it was “deeply worrying to see violent tactics by political opponents”.

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