‘They’re fighting a fight that’s already over’ – The Tab talks feminism with Godfrey Bloom

Yesterday evening at the Durham Union, Tab columnist Flo Perry took on ex-UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom in a debate marred by controversy.


The Protest

About two dozen students turned up for the planned protest, although a fire alarm in the nearby Castle accommodation meant that for the first few minutes there was some confusion over who was outside rebelling against the patriarchy and who was there because someone on their floor burnt toast.

As the queue for the evening’s debate began to form the chants from the group became increasingly louder.

Signs were brandished reading ‘Women’s rights now, no debate necessary’ with one member holding their banner the wrong way round. Perhaps a subtle statement about Blooms backwards views.

With chants such as ‘hey hey ho ho, patriarchy has to go’ and ‘no room for Bloom make room for equality’, the protesters became frenzied when Bloom himself appeared flanked by the DUS officers.

The MEP waved to them cheerily before posing for a selfie.

The police presence quickly ushered him inside. Bloom admitted later that evening that he’s never been egged but he would see it as ‘flattery’.

The Debate

Inside the debating chamber itself there was standing room only, people were sitting cross legged on the floor and those who had managed to get a seat on the pews found themselves crammed in like sardines.

Rishi Goenka, Easter Term President of the DUS, started the debate with a clarification of the rules. He told the floor that whilst the Union represented a ‘bastion of free speech’ there was no room for ‘offensive remarks’ or ‘personal attacks’ on anyone present.

He went on to say that this applied to speakers on the floor as well, perhaps in an attempt to avoid scenes like the one in Oxford earlier this year.

The motion, ‘This House Believes it’s a woman’s world’ saw Bloom and Online Editor for the Spectator, ex-Durham student Sebastian Payne for the proposition. For the opposition Flo Perry debated alongside Angela Towers of the No More Page 3 campaign.

Bloom was the first to speak and the moment he stood up chants could be heard from the protesters outside. They didn’t seem to be protesting the things he was saying as they weren’t able to hear him, but rather the simple fact he was speaking.

About 5 minutes in to Bloom’s speech the protesters tired of chanting and resorted to playing Jingle Bells through their megaphone.

Photo credit: Oliver Grimmett

The ex-UKIP MEP started by noting that at Durham he may need to be ‘more cerebral’ than other universities, playing to the crowd by putting it ahead of Oxford (although still behind Cambridge). He went on to respond to the protesters by saying he does nothing in an austere manner, telling the audience ‘my Bentley is outside the hotel’.

He continued to talk about Bentleys, likening the company’s decision to bring out a Mark II to God’s decision to make woman – the key similarity being a ‘better chassis’, drawing a low murmur from the audience and laughs of disbelief from some.

Bloom went on to defend the motion by calling quotas for women ‘patronising’ and arguing that women should be selected for roles, such as being a pilot, based on merit and not because they have to fill a quota.

He listed many female elected officials in his life time that have been at the ‘forefront of so many countries in the world.’ He called this ‘good’ and ‘proper’ in contrast to ‘wrong and dangerous’ quotas.

(l-r) Godfrey Bloom, Sebastian Payne, Rishi Goenka, Flo Perry and Angela Towers

Flo Perry, speaking for the opposition, started by listing statistics on the frequency of rape, violence and genital mutilation of women on a global scale.

She conceded that it was difficult for the audience to empathise with women from “bongo bongo land”, a reference to a comment Bloom made last year, and it received a round of applause.

The Tab columnist then told the audience about cases when she herself had been a victim of sexism in Durham, speaking of being groped in clubs and assaulted when drunk.

She closed her argument, after talking about her dislike for ‘getting her pubes waxed’, by giving examples of women in Saudi Arabia who are required by law to have male consent for many things they do in their lives.

Photo credit: Oliver Grimmett

Mr Payne said that there was a massive ‘cultural shift in attitudes’ in the last 20 years and that a ‘gender revolution’ was underway. He also described women’s place in the economy as ‘a Trojan horse take over’ noting that the only thing ‘saving’ the male population was women stopping for childbirth.

In the final speech of the evening Angela Towers started by sarcastically thanking Bloom for ‘objectifying every woman in the room’ by comparing them to chassis. He replied ‘lap it up while you can young lady, believe me’.

This was met with cries of outrage from some members of the audience and the comment was not recorded in the minutes. Towers went on to call the debate ‘pointless’ and cited examples in media and sport when women have been ‘exploited’.

Two floor speeches were stopped by the president because they condemned the DUS for their decision to invite Bloom to speak, one man was expelled from the chamber for protesting Bloom’s presence.

The Interview

After the debate, the Tab sat down with both Godfrey Bloom and Flo Perry.

He described feminists (despite calling it a meaningless term) as ‘fighting a fight that’s already over’ adding that ‘they need to move on’.

He also called the expectation of a university education a ‘society thing’ that didn’t exist when he was of a student age, before going on to say that free education should be available but with fewer universities which constitute ‘centres of excellence’. He said that nowadays ‘the world and his wife’ go to university, describing universities such as Huddersfield and London Met as ‘mickey mouse’.

He did thankfully clarify that Durham is a ‘top university’.

Whilst declining to comment on all the bottoms in this year’s Best Bums competition, he did wholly approve and describe one entrant, Emily, as having a ‘damn fine bum’.

A delighted Flo Perry, Godfrey Bloom and an unironed Tab t-shirt

Noting that our Tab t-shirt was unironed he suggested we could get a ‘non-feminist member to iron it’ for us.

Interview courtesy of the Durham Union Society