Image Credit: Gage Skidmore
At the 15 October Societies Committee meeting, YUSU rejected an application to ratify the conservative student campaign group Turning Point UK for the third time. The minutes for the meeting stressed the committee’s position that "there was nothing inherently wrong or problematic with what this group wish to be doing: discussing right-wing politics and capitalism is something which the Committee and YUSU are happy to encourage and facilitate." Still, they expressed concern about the "friction" which may come from associating with a"strongly right-wing" organisation. Similarly, Stand Up to Racism were recently denied ratification for its affiliation with the SWP. The way I see it, it is correct to deny TPUK ratification – but for different reasons to those of the Societies Committee.
TPUK is no stranger to controversy. In one instance, Candace Owens – a US member with links to the White House– made bizarre comments at an early TPUK meeting which segued from a defence of nationalism, to Nazi apologism, arguing that "Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK,fine," before going on to posit that the only problem with Hitler was his ‘globalism’. Numerous notable conservatives have distanced themselves from TPUK after initially expressing support, not least because of the reputation accumulated by such controversies
I have issues with YUSU's position, though: the notion that the organisation is too extreme to be associated with the University is questionable. I believe that between the lines of the decision there is an inherent fear of the politically extreme, a damaging pathology concurrent with mainstream political commentary. Freedom of speech isn't the issue; if these students wanted to meet and discuss conservative ideas, nobody would shoot them. Rather, it is unhealthy to tip all political discussion to the centre, interfering with organic campus discourse. It is inherently political– quite the opposite of being impartial – to do this. Of course there is an argument that TPUK would culture hate speech, but this is something that could be monitored by YUSU. The reason TPUK should not be ratified is their shady financial status. Nobody really knows who funds them. John Mappin (a castle-dwelling scientologist who awarded Trump an honorary knighthood) seems to have something to do with it, but he has previously said "the whole idea is to stay anonymous." Recently, some information has come to light about TPUSA’s funding, revealing a trend of support from donors linked to fossil fuels – explaining the organisation’s persistent climate denial. Some of these donors include the Hanley Family and the Koch Brothers via the Donors Trust, the Heritage Foundation and the Foundation for Economic Education. It is likely that TPUK’s funding is linked to that of TPUS, but their huge budget is still unaccounted for. Until information regarding their funding is readily available, like many other campaigns, we should be extremely wary of TPUK. Therefore, it is a good thing that –for the time being – campus will be safe from TPUK and its shady donors.
Image Credit: Gage Skidmore
An earlier version of this article alleged that some TPUK members had committed supported committing 'chavocide' in a private WhatsApp group. This is not true.