Bill Etheridge defies Sussex Students Union
On Saturday UKIP Sports Spokesperson, Bill Etheridge MEP, spoke at an event organised by Sussex University student society Liberate the Debate.
Originally, University of Sussex had tried to take the ‘moral high ground’ by putting on unworkable restrictions to Mr. Etheridge from speaking on campus whilst simultaneously hiding behind the facade that he wasn’t banned from speaking at the university. These restrictions meant that alternative venues had to be found, however numerous venues pulled out of hosting this event due to fears of left-wing protests and therefore it was decided that we would host the event just outside the university perimeter in Stanmer Park.
Around 45 students and members of the public braved the cold to listen to Mr. Etheridge who spoke about libertarianism, Brexit, and, most importantly, free speech.
Peter Anson, president of Liberate the Debate, kicked off the event with an explanation and a debunking of the attempted restrictions that the University of Sussex attempted to place on the event, saying that
‘most importantly, it does not seem brave that [the restrictions] are all argued to be under the banner of protecting Bill and students from a volatile response, however is it brave that the Students Union choose to restrict a member of the European Parliament mainly to appease a volatile response of the student minority who feel justified in using physical means?’ and called upon the Students Union to ‘critically review its actions’. Mr. Etheridge followed by saluting the bravery of the society that organised the event, citing that the whole point of living in a liberal society is that ‘you don’t have to agree with the speaker to hear the speaker and to debate the speaker’.
The MEP for West Midlands went on to talk about a libertarian future for Britain and attacked the new trend of political correctness that has spread like wildfire across university campuses seemingly to justify a policy of no-platforming controversial speakers.
A Q&A followed his speech with questions coming from many members of the audience, one individual asked whether social media is a danger to free speech because of the ‘echo chamber’ that it creates in terms of political views, whilst another interesting statement challenged Etheridge by asking whether his viewpoint of controlled immigration was compatible with his commitment to libertarianism.
The event was rounded off with a photoshoot behind the University of Sussex sign and an interview by the University TV station.
All in all the event was well attended for a cold, dreary Saturday afternoon and the statement that freedom of speech will not be hindered by those who are afraid to have their beliefs challenged was made – a statement that will hopefully be heard loudly by universities nationally.
The full livestream has been published onto Facebook and can be viewed here.