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Williamson's Queen portrait comments 'laughable nadir' in government's authoritarian crusade

9 June 2021

Responding to Gavin Williamson's comments about the decision of Oxford students to remove a portrait of the Queen from their college common room, UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:

'Gavin Williamson's continuing interference in universities, seeking to dictate what students can and cannot say, which speakers they should invite, and attacking rigorous historical research that diverges from the government's propagandistic agenda, is not only absurd but dangerous. Williamson styles himself as a champion of free speech and academic freedom, but never misses an opportunity to attack staff and students who are merely exercising these rights.  

'Denouncing students for taking down a portrait of the Queen in their common room is another distraction from the disastrous, systemic failings this government has presided over in higher education, and a laughable nadir in Williamson's authoritarian crusade. The government's incoming Director for Freedom of Speech will have their work cut out in dealing with the threat posed by Williamson to free speech on campus, long before they turn to students' decorative choices.

'As university staff have already pointed out, this government doesn't care about freedom of speech of campus, and its attempts to change the law should be seen as nothing other than a Trojan Horse for policing what students and staff can and cannot do.'