Gavin Williamson says Oxford students’ removal of Queen portrait is ‘absurd’

Education secretary says monarch has ‘worked tirelessly to promote British values of tolerance, inclusivity and respect’

Alastair Jamieson
Wednesday 09 June 2021 02:50 BST
<p>The Queen, pictured at Magdalen College in 2008 </p>

The Queen, pictured at Magdalen College in 2008

The education secretary Gavin Williamson has waded into the row over Oxford students removing a portrait of the Queen from their common room, calling it “absurd”.

Members of the Middle Common Room at Magdalen College voted for the change by a majority, saying the monarch represented “recent colonial history” and could make some feel unwelcome.

Mr Williamson tweeted that the monarch has “worked tirelessly to promote British values of tolerance, inclusivity and respect around the world”.

She was a symbol of “what is best about the UK”, he said, as he condemned the decision.

“Oxford University students removing a picture of the Queen is simply absurd,” he wrote.

“She is the head of state and a symbol of what is best about the UK.”

The president of Magdalen Dinah Rose also took to twitter to defend the students - and suggest that Mr Williamson was easily provoked.

Ms Rose said that the Middle Common Room was an organisation of graduate students, who did not represent the College.

“A few years ago, in about 2013, they bought a print of a photo of the Queen to decorate their common room,” she said.

“They recently voted to take it down. Both of these decisions are their own to take, not the College’s. Magdalen strongly supports free speech and political debate, and the MCR’S right to autonomy.”

But she added: “Maybe they’ll vote to put it up again, maybe they won’t. Meanwhile, the photo will be safely stored.

“Being a student is about more than studying. It’s about exploring and debating ideas. It’s sometimes about provoking the older generation. Looks like that isn’t so hard to do these days.”

It is not the first time that Mr Williamson has criticised students as part of the so-called “war on woke”. Earlier this year he railed against what he said was a “chilling effect” of “unacceptable silencing and censoring” on university campuses.

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