Union courts controversy with Hopkins and Shapiro invites

The Oxford Union’s Michaelmas termcard features a number of controversial speakers, just months after the uproar over the invitation of Kathleen Stock.

Media personality and commentator Katie Hopkins will speak as part of a debate on veganism. Ben Shapiro, founder of the Daily Wire known for his controversial views on abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, and racism, will also appear, giving an interview to the Union.

Another right-wing provocateur, Turning Point activist Charlie Kirk, has also been invited. Both Kirk and Shapiro are noted for their aggressive rhetoric, which is often deployed on U.S college campuses.

This will not be the first time Hopkins addresses the Union. She has previously appeared at the Union twice before: for the “This House Supports No Platforming” debate in 2019 arguing for the opposition, as well as the 2016 debate “This House Believes Positive Discrimination Is The Best Solution To An Unequal Society” also on the opposition.

In 2019 she shared some of her views about veganism at the Union, remarking, “God help this debating society if vegans ever get in power”. The appearance also prompted significant backlash against the Union’s trend of inviting far-right figures, involving an arrest when one protestor attacked a man making the Nazi salute sign.

Hopkins is no stranger to controversy, after her 2015 article “Rescue boats? I’d use gunships to stop migrants” landed her in controversy, where she wrote “Show me pictures of coffins, show me bodies floating in water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad. I still don’t care”. In 2020, Hopkins was permanently removed from Twitter for violating the platform’s “hateful conduct” policy.

Political commentator Ben Shapiro is also known for his contentious views, including his opposition to a Palestinian state. He explained his perspective as “Israelis like to build. Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage”.

In 2022 he also celebrated the fall of Roe v Wade, as he has previously referred to those who get abortions as “baby killers”. More recently, he responded to Riz Possnett, the activist who glued themself to the Union floor protesting Kathleen Stock’s appearance, calling them “stupid”.

The termcard also features a host of other significant political figures. These include US Representative and Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, who will speak at the Benazir Bhutto Memorial Lecture, and current House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who will argue in favour of US intervention in a third-week debate. George Vella, the President of Malta, will also appear.

Other major appearances include Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, Camille Vasquez, and Tom Hanks. Ratcliffe was a political prisoner held by the Iranian regime for 6 years. Vasquez was the attorney representing Johnny Depp in his now-infamous defamation case against actress Amber Heard. Hanks is a prolific actor who has starred in films ranging from Forrest Gump to Saving Private Ryan.