Two Lincoln parliamentary candidates shun university over speaker policy

Karl McCartney & Nick Smith w/ University of Lincoln

Nick Smith (UKIP, left) and incumbent MP Karl McCartney (Con, right) will no longer be speaking at the University of Lincoln if they are made to sign new guest speaker agreements

Parliamentary candidates for both UKIP and the Conservatives have withdrawn from events at the University of Lincoln after refusing to sign an agreement for guest speakers.

Nick Smith of UKIP was booked as a guest speaker for the Students’ Union’s Politics Society, but organisers had to cancel the event, due to be held last Thursday, when he would not sign the new external speakers agreement.

The society then went ahead with a careers event this week without the presence of Lincoln MP Karl McCartney, who refused to sign the form for the “partisan” event. He later commented about the process on Twitter.

The document aims to develop the understanding that speakers “act within the law and the regulations set by the University and the statutes that those regulations are drawn from”. It includes orders that they “must not spread hatred and intolerance in the community and thus aid in disrupting social and community harmony”, as well as “seek to avoid insulting other faiths or groups”.

However, McCartney claimed that the documents, as well as a campus-wide ban on electoral campaigning, restricted his right to speak freely.

UKIP’s Nick Smith said his “party policy is not to sign any pre-conditions”, adding he was “happy to speak at any event, to any audience, but will not subscribe to anyone dictating terms”.

He told The Linc: “The understanding of freedom of speech is lost on the Students’ Union. It is a shame that they feel the need to protect their students from hearing anything not approved by them; it’s not exactly what a broad education is about.”

University of Lincoln Students' Union building

Soviet Union? The SU has been accused of being left wing, pro-Labour, and misunderstanding free speech

Both parties also accused the Students’ Union of being pro-Labour after Lucy Rigby, the Labour parliamentary candidate for Lincoln, managed to speak without signing such an agreement.

Karl McCartney described the events as “convenient” and Nick Smith told the Politics Society to “keep the Red Flag flying high”.

Ryan Kerridge, Treasurer for the University of Lincoln Politics Society, told The Linc: “Lucy Rigby did attend our guest speakers event before Nick Smith [and Karl McCartney were due to appear], but she did not have to sign the agreement. This was because the agreement was a new piece of legislation we had just been made aware of.

“In the future, all guest speakers must sign this document. As it stands, I cannot see anything wrong with the wording nor the general concept of the external speakers briefing contract issued by the Students’ Union.”

On the subject of a pro-Labour bias, he added: “The Politics Society is a completely neutral political body; this is guaranteed in our constitution. Our members form a mix of political ideologies from both sides of the left-right political spectrum.

“It is for this reason that I was very confused by Nick Smith’s comment (“Keep the Red flag flying high”); if the Politics Society was truly biased towards a left-wing socialist ideology then I would have not invited a UKIP speaker in the first place.

“The Politics Society wishes to reiterate its commitment to maintaining a neutral political platform for every student of the University of Lincoln. We are open to a wide variety of political ideologies, and we are happy to provide a safe environment where people may air their opinions and learn about the opinions and ideologies of others.”

Nick Smith, UKIP

UKIP’s candidate for Lincoln, Nick Smith (Photo: UKIP Lincoln Constituency Association)

Nick Smith also voiced concerns that the university “might be breaking electoral law, since they are trying to get Lincoln students registered here in Lincoln and then not allowing all candidates in an election to have unfettered access to these voters.

“The Electoral Commission may think they do not have the right to deny access to any candidate to speak or deliver election material to registered voters on the campus?”

However, when contacted by The Linc, a spokeswoman for the Electoral Commission said there was “no breach of any electoral rules by the university in this matter”.

The University of Lincoln

A spokesman for the University of Lincoln said that external speaker policies were “standard at universities across the UK” and ensure they “fully adhere to the law and are fair and transparent”

A spokesman for the University of Lincoln said: “All individuals involved in electoral campaigning have been politely asked to request permission before they come onto the University’s campus to promote party political activity.

“Before speaking at a Students’ Union event, all external speakers are asked to agree to abide by a briefing which sets out the SU’s expectations and requirements of speakers. These are that:

  • Speakers must not incite hatred, violence or call for the breaking of the law.
  • Speakers are not permitted to encourage, glorify or promote any acts of terrorism including individuals, groups or organizations that support such acts.
  • Speakers must not spread hatred and intolerance in the community and thus aid in disrupting social and community harmony.
  • Within a framework of positive debate and challenge seek to avoid insulting other faiths or groups.
  • Speakers are not permitted to raise or gather funds for any external organisation or cause without express permission of the Trustees.

“In requesting candidates’ cooperation with these policies, the University and SU are following the guidance of the Charity Commission to ensure that, as institutions with charitable status, we fully adhere to the law and are fair and transparent. Such policies are standard at universities across the UK.”

Correction: The University of Lincoln Students’ Union has informed The Linc that they are being represented by the university in this matter.

2 Responses to Two Lincoln parliamentary candidates shun university over speaker policy

  1. Steve Cheney says:

    Huh, I’m impressed that UKIP and Conservative members recognise that the things they want to be able to say break these perfectly reasonable rules. Most of them kid themselves that it’s just “common sense” or whatever.

    Either way, rules like this wouldn’t be necessary without people like him, so…

  2. Pingback: Election hustings cancelled as SU sticks to speakers policy | The Linc