Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to first week here at the Oxford Union.
Before I begin, I would like to apologise to our guests tonight, for I meant none of you any disrespect by not attending dinner. I do sincerely hope you leave tonight with fond memories of our society.
It’s customary for me at this stage to announce any upcoming events or perhaps even make a joke, however, tonight I will do no such thing. Tonight, I wish to say something a bit more than that.
I joined this society, because I believe in free speech and proper debate. With that in mind, many of you might be aware that earlier this week the Union’s committee voted to spending the society’s money to pay for the President’s personal legal fees. In response, over 30 members and I attempted to move that discussion and vote to you here tonight, so that you may properly queston the reasoning for such a decision.
Yesterday, I thought my attempts to have a free and open discussion about this were blocked and I was told that we ‘should not be airing our dirty laundry in public’. This kind of a response is not fitting for a society which supposedly upholds the principle of free speech. It makes us seem cowardly and it looks like we are avoiding answering the difficult questions in public. If we had nothing to worry about then why should it ever matter where such a discussion takes place.
In light of these actions and following a persistent campaign against me for ever questioning him, I have suffered repeated and personal attacks.
Therefore, tonight ladies and gentlemen I refuse to sit next to a President who believes such actions are acceptable. I refuse to sit next to a President who does not believe in freedom of speech. And I refuse to sit next to a President who has lied to members and tried to cover it all up with your money.
It fills me with great regret to have to make this choice and I sincerely apologise to you all and especially to our guests tonight who do not deserve any of this. I cannot, in all good conscience, continue to sit here tonight and remain silent in the face of a President who shows such distain for the society that he has pledged to serve.
Once again, I am truly sorry.