Universities Minister David Willetts was greeted bluntly on his return to Oxford University last night, when he was confronted by a banner reading “F*ck you David Willetts.”
The Minister for Universities and Science was three minutes into his speech at the Oxford Union, speaking for the proposition in a debate entitled “This House believes university education is a right, not a privilege”, when a small group of protesters unfurled their banner from the first floor gallery.
Earlier in the day the group had participated in a rally against cuts to lecturers’ wages. In the evening they were protesting against Mr. Willetts’ alleged marketisation of tertiary education.
The group, who were guests of a member of the Oxford Union, rather than members themselves, chanted “David Willetts get out, we know what you’re about” before being asked to leave by the Union’s security. The audience groaned when the group began to unfurl their banner, which quickly turned into booing, and cries of “attention-seekers” were heard.
The banner also read "and Made in Chelsea is shit too", in reference to the fact that Spencer Matthews, a cast-member on Channel 4’s reality TV show Made in Chelsea, was speaking for the opposition of the motion.
Mr Willetts kept his calm when confronted with the banner. After the noise had died down, the minister remarked, “I prefer The Only Way is Essex as well,” which was greeted with applause. He then finished his speech.
“I think the main thing was I was able to resume my speech,” he told the Independent afterwards. He insisted that he had not been offended by the group’s actions and described himself as having “thick skin”.
A student who was at the debate said, “There was a lot of mirth. No one took them very seriously.”
Yesterday’s evening’s disturbance comes a fortnight after George Galloway’s speech at the Union was interrupted by a student bearing an Israeli flag.