A controversial MEP has been banned from addressing a group of university students, allegedly because campus officials feared the event may breach anti-terror laws.
Janusz Korwin-Mikke was due to address a conservative group at the University of East London (UEL) on Thursday – but Heat Street can reveal that the event has been scrapped after the venue unexpectedly pulled the plug.
Organizers claim that UEL staff cited Prevent legislation – designed to stop extremist speakers radicalizing impressionable students – when cancelling the talk.
Danial Mirza, whose Young British Heritage Society planned the event, believes UEL got cold feet after reading up on the controversy surrounding their guest.
Korwin-Mikke, a Polish MEP from a right-wing fringe party, went viral early last month when he got himself banned from the European Parliament.
He was roundly condemned for an outburst in which he claimed that women are “smaller, weaker and less intelligent” than men – and therefore deserve less pay:
He was fined a month’s salary and suspended from parliament for ten days as a punishment. He is still serving a year-long ban on representing the European Parliament at external events.
Korwin-Mikke’s Wikipedia page is quite a read, and includes accusations of racism. He was previously suspended from the European parliament for using the Nazi salute to make a point about transport policy.
Not long after the furore, the Young British Heritage society announced the UEL speech, aiming give Korwin-Mikke a “fair hearing”, and subject him to a “no-holds-barred Q&A”.
The event was due to take place this week – but was summarily cancelled by the venue.
Mirza claims a UEL staff member cited Prevent in a phone conversation ending the call – though in a later statement to Heat Street the university denied that it was a factor in their decision-making.
Prevent guidelines are part of the Government’s anti-terror strategy, and are mainly designed to prevent Islamist hate preachers and neo-Nazis being given free rein on campus.
Instructions for universities deliberately set the bar for intervention very high – to warrant cancellation, events must put students “at risk of being drawn into terrorism” or “popularize views which terrorists exploit”.
No critic of Korwin-Mikke has seriously claimed that his views – though unpopular – are likely to get anybody killed. In a statement to Heat Street, Mirza said:
I was called out of the blue by an official who said the event was off because of a litany of issues they had never mentioned before.
Among them was that the event breached the venue’s Prevent policy, and that it was too “one-sided”. For whatever reason, UEL later decided not to commit that to writing.
In fact, we made every effort to invite an open discussion, and advertised a “no-holds-barred Q&A session”. Universities like UEL ought to be hotbeds of rigorous academic debate – but we regard this as an act of blatant censorship.
A spokesman for UEL told Heat Street:
The University’s conferencing team decided it would not be appropriate for the event to take place on university premises.
The reason for taking this decision had nothing to do with our obligations under Prevent. This event was purely external and not aimed at our students or staff.
However, in addition to the event being advertised before permission had been granted, it was deemed to be unsuitable event to be hosted on our campus.
Our booking conditions, which were sent to the organiser along with the booking form, state clearly that we can terminate any event that “may, in the University’s opinion, prejudice the University’s reputation”.
A spokesman for the Home Office, which publishes Prevent guidelines, declined to comment.