I’m in the process of setting up a new organization to defend, promote and secure free speech so I’m interested in what the two main political parties have to say about it. No prizes for guessing which one comes out best.
Let’s start with the Conservative manifesto. In the section entitled ‘World-leading universities’ it says, “We will strengthen academic freedom and free speech in universities…” That’s extremely welcome, given the parlous state of intellectual freedom in Britain’s higher education sector. I’m not just thinking of the incidents we’ve all heard about, such as the decision by Cambridge to rescind its invitation to Jordan Peterson to become a visiting fellow after he was photographed next to a man wearing a ‘proud to be an Islamophobe’ t-shirt. There’s also hard data on this. According to a report commissioned by the University and College Union in 2017, 23.1% of British academics said they’d been bullied on account of their views, compared to an EU average of 14.1%, and 35.5% admitted to self-censorship for fear of negative repercussions (EU = 19.1%). (To read more, click here.)