Controversy emerged at Somerville this week with the announcement that the college history society had invited UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom to speak this term.
Bloom gained national attention earlier this year after a string of controversial comments eventually led to disciplinary procedures and the loss of his party whip.
The MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber first hit headlines this year after referring to certain countries as “bongo bongo land” in a speech given on the UK’s levels of foreign aid.
In a statement made in the History Society’s Facebook group, President Rob Adam confirmed that the invitation had been made.
“Godfrey Bloom will be coming to speak at the history society later this term. The event will be open to people of all subjects and there will be questions after his talk so those who might not be his biggest fans will have the opportunity to quiz him”
Adam also stated his hope that those who chose to take up this opportunity would do so “politely”, and that details on the time and date of Mr Bloom’s arrival would be confirmed at a later date.
It remains unclear whether college authorities will permit the event to go ahead, although society officials have promised to form a breakaway institution in the event of the UKIP icon being disinvited.
Mr Bloom returned to the news last month, by referring to female attendees of a talk given at the UKIP party conference as “sluts”. After also threatening journalists during the conference, party leader Nigel Farage condemned his comments as “selfish and stupid”.
Several have already made their opposition to the visit known with Somerville second-year Olivia Arigho-Stiles commenting that not only Mr Bloom’s political opinions but his lack of relevance to historical study made him an “inappropriate choice of speaker”.
“I don’t want him not to come because I disagree with his views, although they are utterly repulsive.”
“As a former woman’s college that has a proud history of educating women at a time when they faced severe discrimination, I think [Mr Bloom] would be a perverse choice of speaker given that he is an unabashed racist and misogynist.”
Not all members of college are opposed to the invitation being made. Sam Packer, a Somerville second-year, stated that he’d “have no problem” with Mr Bloom coming to speak at the society.
“It’s completely within the rights of the President to invite someone with politics with which the majority of college opinion disagrees.”
“A vocal minority should not prevent the majority of the college from seeing a speaker with a controversial character.”
One Somerville student, who wished to remain anonymous, suggested that the choice had been made to invite Mr Bloom in response to a set of speakers last term that was seen as dominated by the left-wing.
Adam seemed to confirm this and defended his decision to invite Bloom by referencing the politician’s continued membership of UKIP:
“In the past, this has resulted in a narrow focus on historians from a particular discipline or philosophy. This term, we will invite another speaker of wider interest and make the talk open to students from all subjects and all colleges.
“With the recent growth in public support for UKIP, we felt that Mr Bloom would be well-placed to offer an interesting perspective on the past, present and future of his old political party, as well as his own views on current political issues.”
Mr Bloom now sits as an independent MEP, having had his party whip withdrawn on the 20th September.
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