Rishi Sunak intervenes in Stock debate

Rishi Sunak has backed Kathleen Stock’s appearance at the Oxford Union, in an unprecedented intervention into campus politics.

The Prime Minister told The Telegraph that “Kathleen Stock’s invitation to the Oxford Union must stand.”

The gender critical feminist is due to speak at the Union at 5pm tonight. The Trans+ Pride group have announced their plans to protest against her, and at least three counter-protest groups are expected to be in attendance. Up to 1000 protesters are expected, and security measures are in place.

Sunak said, “University should be an environment where debate is supported, not stifled. We mustn’t allow a small but vocal few to shut down discussion.”

The Union’s invitation of Stock has been marked with controversy. The Oxford University LGBTQ+ Society said at the time that it was “dismayed and appalled” by her invitation.

Subsequently, a group of 40 academics sent a letter to The Telegraph supporting her invitation, as did over 100 students with a similar letter. Pro-Vice Chancellor Martin Williams also wrote a letter to The Telegraph supporting freedom of speech at Oxford.

Over 150 students have now called for a formal apology from Williams, and last week, over 100 academics signed a letter in support of trans protesters against Stock. Almost all Oxford JCRs have now condemned the invitation.

Vice Chancellor Irene Tracy had said in an interview with the Times that Stock “has a right to come and speak.”

Stock’s invitation coincided with the Oxford SU’s motion to cut ties with the Oxford Union. This was reported nationally as being a reaction to her invitation, prompting the SU to release a statement denying any link.

The SU also took down their LGBTQ+ Campaign’s statement on the issue due to fears over the new Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act. Sunak is expected to appoint Professor Arif Ahmed as the director of freedom of speech and academic freedom in the coming days. Under the act, he will be in charge of preventing the no-platforming of academics.

Image description: aerial view of Oxford

Image credit: Chen Chen for OxStu