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24 February 2021

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Tories target universities in free speech shakedown

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Adam Calvert, Sheffield Socialist Students

The government recently announced plans to introduce a 'Free Speech Champion' to the board of the Office for Students to regulate the approach to free speech on England's university campuses. This role would regulate the actions taken by universities regarding free speech, and how they promote it.

Universities found guilty of not promoting freedom of speech could be fined. This also includes allowing all guest speakers to have a platform, with risks of punishment if they are refused. New legal measures mean individuals could sue if they feel they've had a breach of free speech thrust upon them.

The Russell Group of universities believes these measures will in fact restrict freedom in universities, and instead threaten their internal autonomy.

The National Union of Students also said there is no evidence of a freedom of speech crisis within universities.

As with most things the Conservative Party does, these measures contradict their other actions. Before Christmas the Socialist Party outlined how Priti Patel was pushing a crackdown on freedoms to protest (See 'No to Tories' new anti-protest law' at socialistparty.org.uk). This includes powers to crack down on picket lines and any protests that they deem to be "preventing newspapers or critical infrastructure from functioning". This goes hand in hand with the recently announced 'intentional trespassing' laws, which could make protests illegal on a huge percentage of private land within the UK.

Now why would the Tories be so interested in appearing like they're pursuing freedom of speech within universities when they are intending to introduce so many draconian anti-protest laws?

The Conservative Party is facing huge unpopularity due to their abysmal handling of the Covid-19 crisis. They are aiming to distract from their faults by appearing as champions of free speech, a hot topic within the UK in recent years, in order to shore up sections of their limited support, and to scrape up votes for the May council elections.

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In The Socialist 24 February 2021:


Covid

Where's the road map to jobs and wages Boris?

Johnson's 'road map' for schools: Act together to protect safety

Vaccine algorithm can't solve capitalist inequality

Garment workers and Covid: Dying for less than minimum wage


What we think

Starmer's speech a return to New Labour


News

Justice for Moyied Bashir

Uber drivers win case - they are workers

Social care: End privatisation and let workers decide how it's run


Lessons from history

How militant trade unionism defeated the 1971 Industrial Relations Act


Workplace news

Usdaw elections - right makes gains but Broad Left builds

HMRC: Divisive pay deal leads to expulsions

Hinkley Point electricians fight 'deskilling'

"I'm here to fight for the future education of children in Hackney"

London bus dispute against low pay, pay cuts and longer hours

GMB members continue fight against 'fire and rehire' in British Gas

Scunthorpe steelworks scaffolders: Fifth week of action


TUSC

Liverpool Unite branch supports 'no cuts' budget strategy

Scottish TUSC election campaign launch

Keep the fighting fund rushing in for a TUSC stand in May


Campaigns news

W. Sussex children's centres on the chopping block

Coventry success building subscriptions

Socialist Students conference - postering

Save John Carroll Leisure Centre

Getting the Socialist out in lockdown


LGBT+ history month

Pride flag is about unity in struggle

Tories tout toilet tensions


International news

Nigeria: Abbey Trotsky on trial for assisting workers' struggle

Facebook v Australian government: nationalise the bosses' media!


Readers' opinion

Film Review: The White Tiger

Tories admit guilt for asylum seeker neglect

Tories target universities in free speech shakedown

The Socialist Inbox


 

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Related links:

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Universities:

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Protest:

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Article dated 24 February 2021

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Thurrock council workers striking against pay cuts, photo by Dave Murray

Thurrock council workers striking against pay cuts, photo Dave Murray

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