The Oxford Union welcomed controversial MP George Galloway on Tuesday, despite considerable outcry surrounding his visit.
The Respect Party MP, who Union President John Lee called “one of the most famous politicians in the world”, is currently suing the National Union of Students (NUS) prompted by their description of him as a “rape denier” and their banning of him from speaking at events affiliated to the union.
A male student from Ruskin College said that whilst the Oxford Union is not affiliated with the NUS they are still betraying the student organization by giving Galloway a platform to speak.
He added: “By suing the NUS, Galloway is effectively suing students. The Union should not be endorsing such a man.” The student wished to remain anonymous “in case Galloway decides to sue me next”.
The Oxford Feminist Network (OFN) also reacted angrily to Galloway’s visit, arranging a protest outside the Union to “make it known that excusing rape is never acceptable.”
A statement on the OFN website explained that “(p)latforming a rape apologist when the NUS is discussing an explicit no-platform rule for these sorts of people is a smack in the face to all women.”
These objections come after Galloway’s infamous comments about rape over the summer when he said, “not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion. Some people believe that when you go to bed with somebody, take off your clothes, and have sex with them and then fall asleep, you’re already in the sex game with them.
“It might be really bad manners not to have tapped her on the shoulder and said, “do you mind if I do it again?” It might be really sordid and bad sexual etiquette, but whatever else it is, it is not rape or you bankrupt the term rape of all meaning…”
Mr Galloway later clarified that “no never means yes, and non-consensual sex is rape”. However, he remained steadfast in his opinion that “what occurred [was] not rape as most people understand it” with regard to Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder currently facing rape charges in Sweden.
Rosie Huzzah agreed with OFN on the Oxford Union Facebook group, saying: “The NUS have banned Galloway from speaking at their events due to him being a rape apologist. By going against the largest student body in the country, what kind of example is the Oxford Union setting for its students? For its women students? This is a blatant disregard for women’s rights and wishes.”
Galloway himself seemed rather unconcerned about the protesters on Monday however, and when questioned about the group congregated outside the Union gates with placards, he said: “I respect their right to protest…now let’s not let this get out of perspective. I’ve said what I said about no always means no.”
“The feminist network might have better targets than me.”
He added: “I do not condone rape…My views on rape are the same as I believe yours to be.”
Yet not all students in the audience seem convinced. One student was happy to disrupt the MP, yelling that he was a “misogynistic homophobe”. Perhaps reflecting his recent litigious streak however, Galloway was quick to respond that “that’s defamatory I’ll remind you.”
“You are a foul liar and I will not be accused… of a foul defamatory lie.”
Galloway then berated the “viciousness of the comment.”
Another student also faced Galloway’s wrath for questioning him on his support for Julian Assange.
He said: “One day the point will come when you will be embarrassed to have asked me that question because you will know what I know. You do not know what I know.”
Galloway added that Oxford University students “should be able to smell the rat.”
Galloway’s reception was not entirely unfavourable however, with one student saying: “[Galloway’s] passion is compelling, whether someone agrees [with him] or not.”
The MP was at the Oxford Union to give a talk entitled ‘The World at War’, and during his speech he covered topics including Iran, Afghanistan and the Arab Spring.
On Afghanistan, he said: “It has been the worst foreign policy decision since the Boer war…[and] made them hate us more than they already did.”
“No-one has been able to conquer Afghanistan. Even Alexander the Great couldn’t do it.”
“David Cameron certainly isn’t great,” he added.
When contacted, John Lee the President of the Union commented: “There was a lot of anticipation in the run-up to Mr Galloway’s appearance at the Union. I’m pleased that the lively discussion inside the debating chamber was mirrored by the protestors who chose to express their opinions outside. The Union has a track record of representing all sides and opinions of the topic under discussion. Mr Galloway’s audience ensured that his appearance was far from an easy ride, asking some fierce questions and receiving equally fierce answers.”
Mr. Galloway was due to visit Bristol University on Tuesday but it is understood that the University retracted their invitation earlier this week.