Sources: (1) Wikipedia Commons (2) Image provided by Blake Walker

What’s happening (and who will be) on campus on Friday the 27th?

The coming week may be one of the most politically active on our Bath University Campus within recent memory. Perhaps one of the most known Tory backbenchers, as well as a key architect in our nation’s present political state, Jacob Rees-Mogg (will be further referred to as JRM), will be visiting the University as a key speaker in an event organised by our Universities Conservative Association. As will be elaborated, this is a move that has brought wide controversy, particularly from student groups that go beyond refuting JRM’s policies and see his ideas as a threat to their identity, as well as their ability to simply be themselves within a campus environment. Several student groups have come together to provide an alternative event, labelled ‘MoggOFF’, for those that wish to express their identity freely, and reject the values promoted by JRM. This event will be held at around the same time (just before and after the JRM speech) on the Chancellors Green. 

On the other hand, The Conservative Association see this as an opportunity to bring one of the main figureheads of their party to campus, justified as a fundamental component of free speech and a way to encourage political dialogue. In true Bath Time fashion, we have provided the respective organisations behind both events the opportunity to advertise, as well as encourage their community to attend, their own individual events. This is what both groups had to say: 

Ronaldo Butrus, President of the Bath University Conservative Association:

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg is coming to campus!

‘’Bath University Conservative Association (BUCA) is excited to invite all students, regardless of their political affiliation, to a thought-provoking and insightful talk by one of the most prominent Conservative figures in the UK, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Member of Parliament for North East Somerset. This talk, titled What is Conservatism about?, is a unique opportunity for everyone to gain a deeper understanding of the values and principles that underpin the Conservative ideology, directly from the former Leader of the House of CommonsBusiness Secretary and Brexit Minister. In a time of polarisation and ideological divides, it’s essential to engage with different perspectives, and this talk provides a platform to do just that.

It’s easy to form opinions about a political ideology based on what we hear from others, but attending this talk gives you the chance to go beyond stereotypes and gain a nuanced understanding of conservatism from an expert in the field. Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Member of Parliament and a prominent Conservative voice, will provide insights into the core principles and values that have shaped the Conservative movement for centuries.

Conservatism is about more than just tax policy or fiscal responsibility. It encompasses a rich tapestry of ideas, including the belief in individual liberty, the importance of tradition and stability, and a commitment to strong communities. Understanding these values can foster productive conversations and help bridge the gap between different political perspectives.

Universities are supposed to be hubs of intellectual curiosity and diversity of thought. By attending this talk, you are contributing to the enriching of your own educational experience. Hearing from prominent figures like Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg allows you to broaden your horizons, regardless of your political beliefs.

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg’s talk will include a brief Q&A session. This is your chance to pose questions, seek clarification, and engage in a direct conversation with a prominent politician and thinker. Regardless of your political alignment, this is an invaluable opportunity to better understand the motivations and reasoning behind conservative policies.

As young, aspiring intellectuals, your engagement in political discourse and understanding of various ideologies is crucial to shaping the future of your country. By attending talks like this, you actively participate in the democratic process, deepen your political awareness, and become more informed citizens.

In a world where echo chambers can easily trap us in a cycle of confirmation bias, attending our talk, “What is Conservatism about?” at the University of Bath, is a chance to break free from that cycle. Whether you’re a staunch Conservative, a passionate liberal, or somewhere in between, understanding the core tenets of conservatism will allow you to engage in more informed and constructive debates.

So, come join us at 12:15pm on the 27th of October (the room number will be released on the day) for an enlightening hour. Expand your horizons, challenge your perspectives, and actively participate in the dialogue that shapes our society. This talk is not just about politics; it’s about intellectual growth, open-mindedness, and the future of our democracy. Book your seat here’’. 

The alternative ‘MoggOFF’ event

A statement from Bath University Left Union (BULU):

‘’On the 27th of October, the nation’s favourite top-hat wielding Eton-and-Oxford-educated conservative parliamentarian, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, will be coming to speak on campus. As an alliance of progressive groups and activist on campus, the Bath University Left Union is highly critical of elected politicians who go out of their way to represent and maintain the status of minor gentry that’s been deemed in “bad-taste” since the middle of the last century.

Rees-Mogg takes this a step further – his voting record goes to show his stringent social conservatism, which includes opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. Nevertheless, Rees-Mogg’s personal views are merely symptomatic of the wider political crisis we find ourselves in – the austerity policies of the Conservative Party over the past thirteen years have resulted in plunging living standards and increasingly widespread poverty, not to mention the party’s deadly hostile-environment policy, abandonment of climate promises, and rampant transphobia. Everyone knows that the next General Election will be time up for the Tories, but their commitment to winding back the clock on our civil liberties, our human rights, and our public services won’t cease until then.

In spite of this, we support the Bath University Conservative Association in their commitment to free speech. So, we’ve decided to exercise ours. Alongside a number of other societies, led by LGBT+, we will be holding an alternative event to express the views of frustrated students for whom Rees-Mogg represents the most regressive and reactionary dimensions of contemporary British politics. Our hopes are that, by participating in this instead of staging an outright protest, we can maintain principles of free-expression and diversity while demonstrating that Rees-Mogg’s traditionalist attitudes stand in direct opposition to them. We would love to invite all those who may be curious to the Chancellor’s Green on the 27th at 12:15’’. 

We further received a statement from the Bath University Green Party (BUGP):

‘’Whilst we respect the right for the Conservative Association to host Jacob Rees Mogg we do think it is right to acknowledge the deep harm that his party and his governments have done to the country. 

According to the child poverty action group 4.2 million children in the UK live in poverty, compared to 3.6 million in 2010, driven by Tory austerity. There are record numbers of homeless people in full-time work (Shelter 2023) exacerbated by the inaction on the housing crisis. There has also been a 186% increase in transphobic hate crimes hate crimes over the last 5 years according to the ONS, stoked by the desperate attempt to mobilise voters in the form of a culture war.

On top of all of this the government is driving us closer and closer to climate crisis, allowing new oil licenses, watering down insulation schemes, and refusing to make polluters pay for a just transition.

Mogg himself of course could never really understand the impact of his disastrous voting record. As a multi-millionaire, son of a life peer, he represents the worst remnants of 19th century society. Opposing the right to choose on abortion, opposing same sex marriage, and opposing bringing government policy in line with human rights rulings.

The Bath University Green Party think that the people of North East Somerset deserve a better MP and that the people of the UK deserve a better government. We look forward to working with other societies to provide an alternative to the Conservative Association’s event’’.

‘MogOFF’ event interview

The Editor of Bath Time Magazine, Elliot Rose, sat down with three of the primary figures behind the ‘MogOFF’, that of Blake Walker, External Co-Chair of the LGBT + Society, Joe Addison, Internal Co-Chair of the LGBT+ Society, and Eesha Ganesh, Chair of the Race Equality Group and the Events Secretary of the Feminism and Gender Equality Society. 

Blake Walker, on the Conservative Associations decision to hold a JRM speaker event: 

‘’Jacob Rees Mogg just has so many problematic takes which directly lead to harm towards so many different groups within our University community. Obviously, with freedom of speech and freedom of expression (…) the Conservative Association are well within their rights to invite Jacob Rees Mogg to campus. I really am disappointed that they chose to, I think it will make a lot of people feel quite unsafe and goes against a lot of the principles of our community (…) of equality, diversity and inclusion’’. 

Blake Walker, on ‘what is the ‘MoggOFF’ event?’:

‘’There was talk (…) initially about protesting the fact that he was coming to campus. We have tried to move into something that will feed less into that kind of narrative that unfortunately there is freedom of speech issues on campus, that people are being de-platformed etc.’. (…) This is not true. What we wanted to do instead was to provide an alternative space (…) to make students aware that not only is he (JRM) on campus, but that is something that many people do not think is ideal or ok’. 

‘’We are currently planning a speaker-based event, which will have community elements as well, including some fun banner making sessions, as well as some face painting. We hope that this will be something that people can learn from, and see the context behind the event as-well’’. 

Blake Walker on the reasons behind the ‘MoggOFF’ event: 

‘’One thing that we wanted to make sure was that he (JRM) didn’t leave campus thinking that we welcomed him, and more importantly, all of the students who are impacted by his shitty takes know that there is a hopefully larger number of people who are quite disgusted and object to things like (for example) not having legal abortions’’.

Eesha Ganesh, on JRM’s political takes: 

‘’There are many examples, and I think I found no less than fifty examples, of takes which would raise more than a few eyebrows amongst the majority of our student community, regardless of political affiliations’’.   

Blake Walker, on how they are going to safeguard those attending the event from any form of abuse:

‘’We have gone officially through the SU to make sure that we receive the appropriate support, Marshall and Security will be notified of location etc. We will be having the event on Chancellors Green, which is an open space, and whilst we know that this leads those who may not have the greatest of intentions to join us, however we think that due to the number of groups involved and those marshalling we will not have any great safety concerns. We have taken further steps to mitigate any risks, if any of the event gets heavy at points, we will advertise trigger warnings and that kind of things in advance. Our event will run from slightly before, and slightly after the JRM event (we did this intentionally), but if those participating in the talk itself come over (…) as long as they are respectful and follow all the University regulations on dignity and respect (people not being openly bigoted etc.), this will not be a problem. Per the SU guidelines we will have a separate area if people want to protest our alternative event (…) my feeling is that won’t happen, but you never know’’.   

Joe Addison, on bringing all these groups together: 

‘’With an event like JRM coming to speak on campus, it gives a lot of other groups and societies something to action against. Political events are very good at getting people to come together in support of one thing against another thing (…) it’s very good to have these type of events (‘MoggOFF’) to show that there are times when we can all come together’’. 

‘’Everyone can come along, and it is inclusive to everyone, and it is so great to be able to have all these events in which everyone is generally passionate about it’ (…) If a bunch of groups were to have their own small little protest they wouldn’t get as much attention from the student populace, you might just walk past them, while if there is one big protest group, people walking past are more likely to notice and think ‘what is happening here?’.  

Eesha Ganesh, on the power of standing united: 

‘’We do have a pretty large number of groups involved, and it could still grow actually. The fact that we have all these groups involved will increase the power of the alternative event and will help to put on a united front (…) that we certainly would not have had if we kept it to only one or two groups. There have been protests on campus in the past that haven’t gone particularly well das they do not have this united front aspect’’. I’m hoping that this alternative event will be so much more powerful as we have so many brains working behind it. 

A Bath Time Message

Here at Bath Time, we wanted to say that whatever event you end up attending, remember to have fun, take care of each other, and stay safe. We wish to further remind everyone of the importance of civility, demonstrating a certain level of respect to your fellow student, no matter your differences, and most importantly allowing others to express their identity to their student community without fear of abuse. 

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