We all need to take a step back and see what kind of society we have become; in particular the Stalinist silencing of voices of dissent – even within our universities.
I have seen my past server host pull this website and my publisher pull my book, in attempts to silence my dissenting opinions. We overcame those, but they should never have happened. Now I have been telephoned by the University of Cambridge to be told that security staff will physically prevent me from entering the University of Cambridge to give a talk there.
What have we become? I have responded thus and am now off to Cambridge.
Dear Dr Elliott,
As I told you on the telephone, I was invited some weeks ago to speak this evening in a debate on the merits of the Afghan War. I learnt this morning that plans had changed due to a student occupation of a university building over University policy towards Gaza, and as the organisers of my debate were involved in the occupation, I was requested to switch my talk to the Law Faculty. I agreed to do so.
I then heard from you that the authorities had decided to exclude non-University members from the law faculty, and should I arrive to give my talk I will not be admitted; and indeed be physically prevented from entering.
I have given this some thought, and I have decided that the threat not to admit me to the University building is unwarranted.
As you may realise, I am Rector of the University of Dundee (and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Lancaster School of Law). I am not personally intending to occupy your building for longer than it takes to give a talk, and certainly intend to cause no damage. I am not a health and safety risk.
I am invited to lecture at Universities and other prestigious institutions worldwide; normally universities are urging me to come, not seeking to turn me away! I understand that a number of people are looking forward to hearing me this evening. To threaten to exclude me is a denial of freedom of speech which I find very peculiar behaviour for the University of Cambridge.
Student occupations are hardly a new phenomenon, and normally can easily be resolved through amicable negotiation. I was quite astonished to learn that Cambridge University had responded by attempting to starve the students out. To try also to ban a guest speaker seems to me likely to inflame and prolong, rather than resolve, the dispute.
It seems to me that the easiest way out of the current difficulty of my visit is for you to extend to me an invitation to speak this evening on behalf of the Faculty.
With all best wishes,