Weekly News Round-Up

Welcome to the Free Speech Union’s weekly newsletter, our round-up of the free speech news of the week. Like all of our work this newsletter depends on the support of our members and donors, so if you’re not already a paying member please sign-up today or encourage a friend to join and help us turn the tide against cancel culture.

Cambridge Vice-Chancellor mired in anti-free speech initiatives resigns early

Stephen Toope has resigned as Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University. Our Director Douglas Murray celebrates the early resignation of the “undistinguished” Vice-Chancellor, listing the many ways freedom of speech and academic freedom were “trashed” during Toope’s tenure. We threatened legal action over an anonymous “microaggression” reporting system backed by him, which was withdrawn following our intervention back in May. The Times says Toope will be remembered for various controversies over free speech at Cambridge, including the landslide defeat of his plan to mandate that all “identities” and views be “respected”. Dr Arif Ahmed, a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College and member of our Advisory Council, played a critical role in winning that battle. He has written for Spiked about the victorious campaign to defeat the plan.

Professor Paul Harper-Scott has resigned from Royal Holloway in protest against “endemic” cancel culture and the dogmatic purification of the curriculum via “decolonisation” initiatives. The Telegraph and the Times have reported on the story, and Professor Harper-Scott has written a blog post explaining why he left.

Worcester College has apologised for hosting a Christian Concern event after “distressed” students complained, despite the event taking place outside of term time. Writing in the Telegraph, Catherine Pepinster says the episode shows that freedom of speech is “in danger of being lost” at Worcester. We are writing to David Isaac, the Provost of Worcester and former Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, to complain.

Meanwhile, academics at the University of Exeter have been advised by the University’s library to de-emphasise “white, male and Eurocentric authors” and instead rely more on tweets and blogs for research to ensure that “marginalised, misrepresented or excluded” voices are heard. The guidance has prompted a backlash, with 40 academics expressing anger at this latest “decolonisation” drive, but a planned letter of protest is being delayed until after the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill becomes law.

The Government has been accused of double standards after confirming that Oxbridge common rooms will be exempt from the provisions of the Higher Education Bill. Universities Minister Michelle Donelan argued that junior and middle common rooms did not need to be included in the law as colleges fund JCRs and MCRs and can therefore “exert a lot of control over their activities” – and Oxbridge colleges will be subject to the new law.

The 2021 US College Free Speech Rankings have been released by the Foundation for Individuals Rights in Education. The pro-free speech group reports that 66% of students support shouting down speakers and 23% support using violence to stop a speaker.

School holds mock trial of Conservative MP, finding him guilty because of his ancestors’ links to the slave trade

A south Dorset school held a mock trial of Conservative MP Richard Drax, with children as young as 12 deciding whether he should be held responsible for his ancestors’ involvement in the slave trade.

Scottish schools have been urged to carry out an “audit of books”, with children’s classic The Tiger That Came To Tea again in the firing line at a three-day conference. A campaign group called Zero Tolerance previously said the book reinforced gender stereotypes because the greedy tiger is male and is waited on by the female characters. Teachers attending the conference were also urged not to use “gendered names” such as “buddy” for children.

Candidates to be blocked from seeking office if they’ve sent “grossly offensive” tweets

Andrew Tettenborn of our Legal Advisory Council has sounded the alarm about provisions in the Election Bill which would prevent people from standing for election if they’ve been convicted under the Communications Act 2003 of sending a “grossly offensive” message. “An over-enthusiastic hustings heckler – or an excessively outspoken rival candidate – could face becoming legally unelectable to any office for five years,” he writes. “The same would apply to anyone who, like a campaigner imprisoned a couple of years ago, followed an MP or councillor around to make a point he or she didn’t want to hear. And, of course, it could apply to anyone who tweets unpleasant things about a political rival.”

Meanwhile, police told a pro-life activist that giving offence is the equivalent of punching someone in the face, reports Dave Brennan in the Critic.

Too dangerous for Labour MP to attend her party conference after she criticised trans ideology

The Speaker of the House of Commons has intervened over the threats made to Labour MP Rosie Duffield after she was labelled “transphobic” for liking a tweet saying “only women have a cervix”. Sir Lindsay Hoyle said that MPs should be able to appear publicly “without fear of harm” after Duffield said she would not be able to attend the Labour Party conference because of the threats. She has sought a meeting with Sir Keir Starmer, but so far the Labour leader hasn’t responded. Brendan O’Neill criticised Starmer’s “shameful silence” over the abuse targeting Duffield and Trevor Phillips has written about the case in the Times.

Sir Ed Davey was questioned by Andrew Marr over the case of FSU member Natalie Bird, barred for standing as a candidate for the Liberal Democrats because she wore a t-shirt saying “woman: adult human female”. Natalie is now crowdfunding to fight a legal battle against the Party. Jo Bartosch says that Lib Dems are being purged of feminists as the Party embraces trans ideology with increasing zeal. Debbie Hayton reports on how the Lib Dems silenced a debate on conversion therapy after a speaker tried to warn about the unintended consequences of an overly-broad ban that might prohibit reasonable therapeutic techniques.

Joanna Williams says the Crown Estate is engaging in “woke washing” by signing up to Stonewall’s embattled Diversity Champions programme – a scheme many other organisations are ditching. She explores how Stonewall became synonymous with the Establishment.

A feminist discussion and debating society at Bristol University has been sanctioned for being a women-only space. It is raising funds to challenge the decision.

Ellen Pasternack says the success of recent books by gender critical feminists shows that “no debate” is no longer an option where trans issues are concerned.

Scottish children should be taught to use “inclusive pronouns” under a new guide book aimed at 9-11 year-olds. What Does LGBT+ Mean? advises primary age children to use “they” instead of “he” or “she” to avoid misgendering their 10-year-old classmates.

Music, arts and culture

Gillian Philip lost her job as a young adult author after she expressed support for JK Rowling on Twitter. She’s a member of the Free Speech Union and we’ve been supporting her ever since. This week, she wrote an article for the Express about her experience of retraining as a HGV driver and how tolerant the haulage industry is compared to the publishing world. She will be speaking about her experience on our panel at the Battle of Ideas: How To Fight Cancel Culture And Win.

Zoe Strimpel of our Advisory Council says the sacking of 14 white members of the English Touring Opera shows how the “quagmire of identity politics” will destroy the arts. Rod Liddle calls it a war “against intelligence, complexity and the acquisition of knowledge”.

Craig Revel-Horwood has spoken of his fear of being cancelled. He said he felt he had to tone down his criticism of couples on Strictly Come Dancing and told the Sun: “There is not as much freedom of speech as we used to have, with the fear of offending certain groups.”

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Thomas Spence says Banned Books Week is not actually interested in banned books, especially if they are written by conservative authors.

“Snowflake” deemed an offensive term by Ofcom

Ofcom has added a raft of new terms to a list of “potentially offensive” words. The terms are not banned, but the words will be taken into account by the regulator when considering a complaint against a broadcaster. They include “snowflake”, “Remoaner”, “gammon”, and “Karen”.

Andrew Doyle of our Advisory Council hosted Free Speech Nation on GB News with a live studio audience this week. You can watch his opening monologue here. Andrew Neil has said he will not appear on the new channel following a war of words between the presenter and the station’s management.

Will woke rule?

Tim Stanley says in his Telegraph column that the age of woke is coming to an end, as the Government fights back to restore free speech on campus. But Sherelle Jacobs argues that Boris Johnson “baulked at putting a culture war at the centre of his governing mission” and that as a consequence the government has been “half-hearted” in responding to things like statue-toppling. Tyler Cowen writes in Bloomberg that the woke movement is America’s next great global export, but Ed West disagrees, arguing in UnHerd that wokery is unlikely to thrive outside the post-Christian West.

NHS and government departments offer critical race training

The NHS is offering courses to staff on Black Lives Matter, white privilege, unconscious bias, authentic allyship and intersectionality, reports Ewan Somerville in the Telegraph.

Civil servants at the Ministry of Justice have been told by a colleague to brush up on their Critical Race Theory, and directed towards an article that criticises Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch for being the wrong sort of black person, reports Guido Fawkes.


The Online Safety Bill – which poses serious threats to free expression – has likely been delayed by the recent reshuffle.

The Guardian shared the findings of a study by Freedom House which concluded that online freedom is declining globally.

FSU at Battle of Ideas Festival

The FSU will be out in force at this year’s Battle of Ideas Festival at Church House in Westminster on the weekend of the 9th and 10th of October. We’re hosting a session, chaired by our founder Toby Young, called “The FSU Files: How to Fight ‘Cancel Culture’ and Win” in which we’ll hear from individuals who’ve experienced first-hand what it’s like to be cancelled. But these particular individuals also have something else in common: with our help, they’ve all fought back. We will hear from them about what the most effective ways are of surviving an online assassination attempt, as well as more general advice on how to persuade people that free speech is a cause worth defending.

Across the weekend there are numerous other sessions on free speech issues that should be of interest to FSU supporters, including “Hate, Heresy and the Fight for Free Speech”, “From GB News to Ben & Jerry’s: Boycotts or Censorship?”, “Publish and Be Damned?”, “The History Wars”, “The Social Justice March through the Institutions”, “Has Coronavirus Changed Us?” and “Can Culture Survive the Culture Wars?”

Most of our staff will be there encouraging others to join the FSU, so come and find us at our stall and say hello. You can buy tickets here. Members were sent a discount code in the last monthly newsletter.

Incidentally, Toby will be debating the pros and cons of the lockdown policy alongside Carl Heneghan, Luke Johnson and Oliver Kamm at the London Hotel on Monday. You can purchase tickets to that event here.

Graham Linehan on cancel culture

Our Education and Events Director Jan Macvarish interviewed Graham Linehan in our latest members-only speakeasy. The award-winning comedy writer had a lot to say about some of the sitcoms he’s created, including Father Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd, as well as fighting off attempts to cancel him from trans activists. You can watch the interview on our YouTube channel here. Please do subscribe to the channel as when we hit 30,000 subscribers we can start monetising it.

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Best wishes,

Benjamin Jones

Case Officer