The debate with George Galloway has been cancelled

What an anticlimax

A debate on ISIS that was set to feature divisive firebrand George Galloway has been cancelled. 

The cancellations followed UCLU Debating’s decision to withdraw their invitation to academic Rodney Shakespeare – an outspoken critic of western foreign policy who has claimed “Israel think they can control the world”.

Debating Society had invited Shakespeare and Respect Party leader Galloway, along with self-styled social commentator Mo Ansar, to debate a motion on whether the rise of ISIS was a result of western political intervention.

However, after deciding to replace Shakespeare on the panel, other speakers – the names of which were not revealed – pulled out in retaliation.


The panel and timing of the event had attracted controversy, with dozens of complaints on the events Facebook page drawing attention to the controversial histories of those on the panel.

One post cited now-deleted tweets in which Ansar, described as a “chancer” by the Spectator, dubbed David Miliband “Zionist Jew Miliband” and said Jewish businessman Lord Sugar was “going for his pound of flesh”.

Another, from Conservative Society president Helen Chandler-Wilde, questioned why the union had allowed the event to go ahead despite denying UCL alumnus and one-time YPG fighter Macer Gifford a platform at a now-rearranged Kurdish Society event.

Debating Society had initially defended the event, and said in a Facebook post last week: “Recent events in Paris and around the globe make this a sensitive matter of discussion – but also means it is more important than ever to discuss who ISIS are and where they have come from.”

Its president, Thos Thorogood, has said the debate will be rescheduled for next term – if the society can find “apt and willing speakers”.

Outspoken Galloway – a prolific anti-war campaigner and 50/1 outsider in the London Mayoral Race – was invited despite having been at the centre of ugly scenes at a UCL debate on the United Nations in January 2014.

Members of the Women’s Network accused the then-Bradford West MP of “rape apologism” – and a protest at the event ended in a physical altercation between UCLU Women’s Officer Beth Sutton and a member of Galloway’s staff.