When Did The Left Become So Scared?

JOEL FENSTER argues against the NUS ban on Galloway and Benn.


Anyone who’s been listening in the past couple days will have heard the deafening sound of silence spread across the country.

Once more, the student left are running scared. This week we’ve had news that the National Union of Students, supported by many in Cambridge, are extending the No Platform policy to George Galloway and Tony Benn. In effect, these two politicians will be banned from speaking at any university across the country.

The reasons for anger are clear: they are rooted in certain outrageous comments both men made about rape. Galloway, the MP for Bradford West, described a man inserting his penis into a woman without consent as “bad sexual etiquette”.

Is this cause for protest? Absolutely. To blacklist them, however, shows quite how scared the left have become.

I consider myself a progressive individual, which is why I am so horrified by the combination of panic and complacency we are now seeing. However odious their comments, and odious they certainly were, to silence them is too simple. It’s an old argument, yet one which remains true: if you want to show the dangers in someone’s view, you take them on and you win. When did so many students decide progressive values couldn’t win a debate?

The No Platform stance is not new; for over twenty years it has been a policy of the National Union of Students. Until now, the primary group being silenced have been ‘racists and fascists’.

Some members of the left-wing commentariat have protested to this most recent move by saying it reduces the impact of the original purpose, which was to prevent fascist views being heard. Watching this group, with whom I feel a sense of affinity, argue over what speech to censor is distressing.

Campus should be the one place where all views can be heard, with students themselves choosing when to turn up. The very individuals who have been calling to ban these two men are the same campaigners who express outrage at censorship around the world.

It might seem dramatic to see this as an issue of free speech, when the media will report every word George Galloway says, yet it is the blatant hypocrisy of the left which is so frustrating.

Students in Cambridge who feel appalled by their comments, myself included, should express their anger and strengthen the campaign against sexual harassment and rape, without feeling the need to shut down the discussion. It is time to let progressive values fight their corner and come out on top. To silence is too easy.