The news that Nick Clegg had to cancel his proposed visit to Oxford due to “an unfortunate clash of diary commitments” – according to a spokesman for the Deputy Prime Minister – has been met with strong reactions from many students.
He had been scheduled to speak at the Oxford Union on Wednesday 17 November. Clegg’s spokesman said that the decision to cancel had “reluctantly” been made a few weeks ago.
He is the second senior Liberal Democrat to have postponed a talk in Oxford in less than three weeks, after Business Secretary Vince Cable pulled out over security fears.
The Liberal Democrat leader is currently facing criticism for breaking his pre-election pledge to “vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament”.
Clegg’s postponement has been viewed by many students as a means to avoid the hostility he may have met in Oxford.
Oxford University Labour Club President, Stephen Bush, told Cherwell that he was “not convinced” that the postponement was enforced by a timetabling clash.
“This proves that not only is Clegg’s tie yellow, his belly is too,” he said. Bush alleged that the postponement represented “just yet another falsehood from Nick Clegg”.
However Robin McGhee, Secretary of the Oxford University Liberal Democrats, refuted this particular attack on Clegg. “We don’t really know what happened,” he said. “He probably didn’t make the decision. Really. He probably didn’t even know what his diary was for this week.”
McGhee believes Clegg is locked in a “slavish bromance with David ‘ma bitch’ Cameron”, an iron embrace which is also illuminating. “The mankini of power constricts and reveals,” he noted.
According to the OULD Secretary, “To vote in favour [of tuition fees] is an act of monolithic stupidity, cowardice, and cack,” that Clegg “needs to justify to students in person”.
However, while it was a move that “should be attacked,” McGhee did not feel that an attempt by Oxford students “to beat [Clegg] into a jelly” by protesting would achieve anything in the face of the police presence that would accompany the Deputy Prime Minister.
Ben Lewy, a second year PPE student, echoed worries concerning the reception Clegg would face. “The best Clegg could expect…would be the kind of mob that scared away Vince Cable. The worst,” he predicted, “would be a fire extinguisher thrown from the Union balcony. I agree with Nick.”
Plans to protest, though, have gained renewed momentum since the talk was postponed. The Oxford Education Campaign, together with the anti-cuts group ‘Save our Services,’ plan to make their way, “with music and jest,” from the Union to the Lib Dem offices on the day intended for the talk.
“Cleggers…pulled out of his booking when we started protesting tuition fees and scared him shitless,” a Facebook event advertising the protest said.
“Bring a saggy yellow/orange jumper if you can as there will be training on how to morph yourself into a chicken for maximum piss-taking effect,” the organisers urged.
Some students consider this “piss-taking” unfair. Sam Stoll, a second year student at Balliol, expressed his sympathy for Clegg. “Why do people have to find hidden meanings in what’s happened?” he asked.
“Sometimes I say that I’m going to cotch in someone’s room at a certain time, but then, you know, I realise I’ve double booked, and I’m supposed to be cotching with some different homies elsewhere”.
Stoll was delighted to learn that one day Clegg might even be his “homie”, for, the Deputy Prime Minister, according to his spokesman, was “always very keen to engage with students and young people.”
In response to Clegg’s no-show, two Oxford campaign groups did a ‘chicken flashmob’ at the Liberal Democrat offices on Wednesday to protest against cuts to universities and other public services.
On the flashmob’s Facebook page, one student, Leo-Marcus Wan, wrote, “There is nothing as self-empowering as protesting through the medium of chicken suits.”
Another student, Kit Johnson, added, “Let’s show them what happens when they decide to feather their nests at our egg-spence.”
A statement from the Oxford Union expressed their regret that Clegg had “postponed his talk” and that they hoped to arrange an alternative date soon.