Why we invited Katie Hopkins to speak at The Cambridge Union

It’s all about free debate

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Allow me to make myself clear from the very start – I don’t agree with Katie Hopkins’ views.

I don’t agree with the way she expresses them. I don’t think she adds anything productive to our national discussion. We can be better, kinder, and more loving.

However, we aren’t doing or being those things. Britain is more divided than ever, a good proportion of which believe Katie Hopkins talks sense. That is why I will welcome her to The Cambridge Union at 7pm today, because, for better or for worse, she is somebody whose views are influential, and hosting those people is what the Union is all about.

You have a right to be offended by Hopkins, or to call her a deliberate provocateur. However, what is not right is to claim that she is insignificant. Donald Trump tweeted about her, encouraging the ‘politicians of the UK’ to watch her to prove that he has support in this country. If you, like me, can’t comprehend how Americans voted against their perceived self-interest, then come listen to her today. She speaks from a place that many of us do not understand, but need to now more than ever. 

Hopkins isn’t the only controversial member on this term’s line up

Furthermore, if you can’t conceive of how somebody could advocate for more stringent border security, increased funding for the military, or a stance that is broadly Islamophobic, then come to hear her speak.  Because people believe in all those things. They might not do in Cambridge, but to hide ourselves from part of our national discourse, rather than confronting it head-on, is simply burying our heads in the sand.

It’s why liberalism is losing so much ground at the moment. We refuse to debate issues we disagree with against those expounding them. In Cambridge it might be a settled issue that refugees deserve our sympathy, that we should strive to rid the world of nuclear weapons, that so-called ISIS does not represent Islam. However, in other places in this is not the case. The issues are still up for debate. I urge you to come today to do so, and to show Katie Hopkins that you think differently to her. Such debate can only, and will only, happen when organisations such as The Cambridge Union facilitate them.

The Cambridge Union: ‘defending free speech since 1815’

What is happening tonight is not free speech. It is free debate. This is a small, but absolutely critical distinction, and a distinction that runs to the core of the society of which I am proud to be President. Free speech would be giving Katie Hopkins a platform to say whatever she wants without the ability to challenge her. Free debate is creating a space in which she can air her views, but will be challenged on them. Those of you who have an opposite view to her will be able to directly hold her to account. This is a rare opportunity. I urge you to take it.

If this can’t convince you she is worth hearing from, then the protest event begins at 18.15. I will be in the Chamber, listening to Katie Hopkins speak with some of my friends. Other friends of mine will be on the picket line outside. We will probably walk down to the Union from college together. That is what free debate is about.

Although, if you really want to challenge Katie Hopkins, grab your union card, queue up, and challenge her from inside the society that has been proudly putting events like this on for over 200 years.

Katie Hopkins speaks at the Cambridge Union tonight at 19.00