Anti-Brexit MEP dropped from debate at Oxford after criticising Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski

'Oxford University for centuries have had debates and that is what students want'

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Saturday 16 February 2019 14:20
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Anti-Brexit MEP dropped from debate at Oxford after criticising Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski

A Liberal Democrat MEP claims she was dropped from a Brexit debate organised by students at Oxford after a tweet in which she criticised a Tory MP received “negative attention”.

Catherine Bearder had been booked to speak to Polish students on a panel with Brexiteer Daniel Kawczynski on Saturday, but her invitation was cancelled at the last minute.

Ms Bearder claimed the decision was taken after she sent a tweet saying she would try “to put the little unicorns Daniel lets free every now and then back in their stables” during the Brexit debate.

When Ms Bearder was told on Friday she’d been disinvited from the event at the University of Oxford, she called for an immediate explanation as claimed it looked like “censorship on campus”.

She later tweeted that the decision has been taken after her social media post attracted attention.

Earlier this week Mr Kawczynski admitted he was wrong and apologised over a tweet claiming that the UK received no aid from America’s famous Marshall Plan after the Second World War.

A former Lib Dem councillor for Islington, Stefan Kasprzak, was asked to stand in on the panel, which was moderated by Marek Matraszek, chairman of a public affairs agency.

Ms Bearder spoke to students outside the event who told her they were “amazed” by the decision.

Speaking to The Independent, she said: “If you are not robust, then what the Dickens are you doing in politics?

"Oxford University for centuries have had debates and that is what students want."

On the all-male panel, she added: "It makes a change being the token woman to being the excluded woman.

"There were a lot of female students going in and what message does that send to them?"

A spokesperson for the Oxford University Polish Society, which organised the event at the university’s examination schools, apologised for the way in which the change of arrangements were communicated and "for any upset or embarrassment" caused.

They said: "An online exchange, primarily concerned with issues irrelevant to the Polish student community in the UK, caused concerns that the panel debate would be overshadowed by issues specific to internal British political controversies, however topical.

"We strongly deny the charges of stifling free speech, let alone censorship. We are deeply committed to free speech and consider it to be an important part of our identity as a student body."

The organisers added that Mr Kasprzyk, a Liberal Democrat and a vocal supporter of the Remain campaign, was invited to represent the opposing views to Mr Kawczynski.

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