Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg visited Oxford on Tuesday to speak at two public events.
He spoke first at Wesley Memorial Church on New Inn Hall Street, at a question and answer forum hosted by the Oxford Mail. About 140 people attended the event, including several students.
Clegg also delivered the European Studies Centre Annual Lecture 2014 at St Antony’s College, speaking for approximately an hour. The subject of his talk was ‘Britain’s Place in the EU’. The talk was meant to begin at 3.30pm and last until 4.30pm, but the Deputy Prime Minister was running about ten minutes late.
Speaking to the Oxford Mail, Clegg denied that he was visting Oxford two days before an election, because he was concerned about his party’s potential performance.
The Oxford Activist Network organised a protest against the Deputy Prime Minister’s visit, dubbed ‘Clegg off campus’. The protestors assembled at 2.30pm outside of the Taylor Institution Library, with around thirty people participating in the protest. The protestors’ chants included “abolish fees now” and “shame on you for turning blue”.
The Oxford Activist Network also issued a clarification on the Facebook page for the event, “We are by no means trying to enforce a policy of ‘no platform’ on the Deputy Prime Minister. We’re quite sure he has lots of easily accessible platforms, and that tactic is reserved for fascists and the like. Instead, the aim is to demonstrate that, after betraying students, Clegg is not welcome on our campuses or in our universities. By protesting on Tuesday, we’re showing that the student movement has not forgotten this stab in the back, that we continue to oppose the marketisation of education, and that we will fight for free education.”
Xavier Cohen, who attended the protest, commented, “I protested against Nick Clegg because I don’t think someone who betrayed students by promising free education and then trebled tuition fees should be welcome in our university. We were forcefully kept out of our own university by police who were pushing us, whilst Nick Clegg was ushered onto campus.”
One first year Balliol PPE student, commenting on the protest, told Cherwell, “Nick Clegg may not have fulfilled his promises on tuition fees, but a spirit of compromise is essential to achieving other policy objectives that the Liberal Democrats have. The claim by the far left that they are representative of the student body is farcical, all they are doing is shutting down debate and free speech rather than engaging in constructive discussion – such as by questioning Clegg in a debate.”