Oxford Union Secretary, Nick Brown, forces vote on whether to cancel Steve Bannon talk

News University News

Image Credit: Don Irvine

Following the announcement that former chief Strategist to President Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, is to speak at the Oxford Union on Friday 16th November, the Secretary of the Union, Nick Brown, has called for an emergency meeting of the standing committee.

The formal letter of requisition, as seen by The Oxford Student, states that:”I, Nick Brown, hereby requisition an emergency meeting of the standing committee for 3pm on the 15th November in the Macmillan Room”

“The purpose of this emergency meeting shall be to discuss and vote on whether the standing committee should direct the president to disinvite Steve Bannon.”

This motion was signed by Brown, with the Union’s treasurer-elect Amy Gregg, and Standing Committee member Anisha Faruk. Brown is a candidate for President-Elect in the society’s upcoming elections, and the leader of the “New Way” slate.

The Oxford Student has seen evidence that this speaker was confirmed at the start of September this year – the President Stephen Horvath and Librarian Genevieve Athis are in charge of individual speaker events, but Union insiders have told The Oxford Student that the rest of Standing Committee, the society’s governing body, were only informed alongside members today.

A member of the current Standing Committee has told The Oxford Student: “Regardless of whether Steve Bannon should have been invited, the President did so in the most illegitimate way possible – announcing the event two days beforehand to avoid protest was wrong. Horvath hid the event even from the Union committee, who were elected by the Members to make exactly this sort of decision – just another example of a Union Officer failing to engage with its membership.”

In response, the President of the Oxford Union, Stephen Horvath, has told The Oxford Student, “I briefed all staff members and committee members necessary for the running of this event. For example, The Chair of the Consultative Committee (as the person in charge of logistics), the President-Elect (as the person with the most experience of security and logistics), the Junior Treasurer (as the person with the most experience of successfully inviting American political figures to the Union), and the Director of Press were made aware of this event in advance so that appropriate security measures could be put in place for the benefit of those members wishing to attend this event.

“On the advice of our security team, the announcement was scheduled for Wednesday morning. This is consistent with other high-profile speaker announcements such as Secretary Kerry or President Nixon, and it is worth noting that, unlike these figures, Mr Bannon does not have government funded security.”

The Oxford Union’s  announcement has sparked outrage from many students, with student campaign groups announcing demonstrations against the decision. Protests have been planned by Oxford Stand Up To Racism, Oxford SU LGBTQ Campaign, Free Education Oxford Education, Oxford and Abingdon Young Labour, Oxford Climate Justice Campaign, Oxford University Labour Club, Oxford SU CRAE – Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality, Oxford Migrant Solidarity and RS21 (Revolutionary Socialism for the 21st Century).

The President of the Oxford University Liberal Democrats, Finn Conway, has told The Oxford Student, “The decision to invite Steve Bannon to the Oxford Union demonstrates how genuinely out of touch the society has become. Union speeches are not adequate spaces to constructively challenge or effectively debate a speaker’s views – thinking they are makes a mockery of the entire concept of freedom of speech, which the society claims to uphold.”

“There’s an increasingly common false causal link drawn between preventing hate speech and limiting free speech – this is simply not the case. Bannon has actively contributed to the rise of hate speech and oppression of minorities in the US; he is anathema to everything we stand for as Liberal Democrats.”

Co-Chair of the Oxford University Labour Club, Charlotte Austin, told The Oxford Student, “The Oxford Union is inviting fascists with alarming regularity, at odds to the diverse and tolerant community of Oxford. Whenever the Union invites those who incite hatred into our city, we will demonstrate against them.”

In August 2016 Bannon became the chief executive officer of Trump 2016 presidential campaign, seeing Trump to victory in the November 2016 presidential elections.. He has advocated economic nationalism, free trade restrictions on China and Mexico and heavy restrictions on immigration.

Bannon left the White House after violence at the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally. The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People described Bannon as a “symbol of white nationalism”

Stephen Horvath and Nick Brown were contacted for comment.