Cambridge Union draws up 'Stalinist' list of speakers it has BANNED

Cambridge Union draws up ‘Stalinist’ blacklist of speakers it has BANNED from addressing students after art historian used anti-Semitic slurs while impersonating Hitler to demonstrate how ‘offensive Nazi leader was’

  • President Keir Bradwell sent an email to members saying who would be blocked
  • It is said to include art historian blasted by students for doing a Nazi impression
  • Andrew Graham-Dixon was slammed for mimicking Adolf Hitler and using slurs
  • Soviet spy biographer Andrew Lownie called the Union’s new blacklist ‘Stalinist’

The Cambridge Union has drawn up a ‘Stalinist’ blacklist of banned speakers, reports say.

President Keir Bradwell fired an email out to members to tell them who would be blocked from events.

It is said to include an art historian who was blasted by students for doing a Nazi impression last week.

Andrew Graham-Dixon was slammed for mimicking Adolf Hitler and using racial slurs during a debate on free speech to ‘show how offensive the dictator was’.

Soviet spy biographer Andrew Lownie – who was a previous president of the Cambridge Union – branded the blacklist ‘Stalinist’.

President Keir Bradwell (pictured) fired an email out to members to tell them who would be blocked from events

It is said to include an art historian who was blasted by students for doing a Nazi impression last week (pictured)


Soviet spy biographer Andrew Lownie (right) – who was a previous president of the Cambridge Union – branded the blacklist ‘Stalinist’ (left, the Russian)

Which speakers caused biggest backlash at the Cambridge Union? 

The Cambridge Union in principle opposes no platforming speakers.

But cancel culture has led students to take matters into their own hands and cause havoc when a guest arrives they do not want to hear from. 

Here are some of the most high profile attacks on free speech at the union:

  • In May 2011 then Government Minister Eric Pickles faced furious student protests where they banged drums and blocked the entrance to the chamber where he was due to speak;
  • In November 2011 Universities Minister David Willetts was stopped from speaking by angry students when he got on the podium;
  • In February 2013 the leader of France’s Front National party Marine Le Pen was met with 200 baying demonstrators as they claimed she was promoting fascist views;
  • In October 2015 Julian Assange was invited to the Union via video link from his bolthole in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London despite a huge uproar from campaigners;
  • In July 2019 former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage was no platformed by then union president Abdullah Shah, who claimed the politician ‘says controversial things for the sake of it’.

Mr Bradwell’s email said he would ‘create a blacklist of speakers never to be invited back, and we will share it with other unions too’, adding: ‘Andrew will be on that list.’

His message, seen by the Telegraph, said he would ‘institutionalise firm definitions of racism — including anti-black racism and the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism’ and vow to ‘intervene in debates whenever, if ever, these are contravened’.

He added: ‘More widely, I will intervene if and when I feel it part of my duty to our members and audience to do so.’

The blacklist is only believed to be for speakers who students claim harmed them after already performing at the union.

Mr Lownie, who has written about Soviet spy Guy Burgess, branded the move as ‘Stalinist’.

He said: ‘I think this is appalling. There have always been controversial speakers and indeed the presidents invite controversial speakers to get attention for their programme.

‘But the point is they are allowed to debate in open debate and make their case, and undergraduates are able to challenge it. I think it’s a very depressing development.

‘This sounds rather Stalinist, and goes against the whole ethos of the union and why it was set up and, until recently, flourished.’

Mr Bradwell said as president he had to balance free speech with the welfare of union members.

He said: ‘One way I am keen to make it easier, and help future presidents draw the line, is by ensuring that the speakers who have come here and caused students or the institution great difficulty (whether that’s by placing very young adults at the heart of national media controversies as a result of their conduct, or in the worst instance making students feel physically uncomfortable after an event) are kept on record.’

It comes after he was forced to apologise for Mr Graham-Dixon’s ‘crass and deeply insensitive’ impression of Hitler during a debate on ‘good taste’.

The guest speaker, 60, impersonated the German dictator as part of his argument against the motion ‘this house believes there is no such thing as good taste’.

The historian said his lengthy impression, which included racial slurs and voiced anti-Semitic and racist views, was to ‘show how offensive the Nazi leader was’.

Mr Bradwell, who had said it was the ‘longest Hitler impression’ the chamber had ever heard, issued an apology for his failure to intervene.

Bradwell had been filmed admitting he was ‘quite drunk’ during the debate, but later said he had two glasses of wine and denied it impacted his ability to chair the discussion

Bradwell had admitted he was ‘quite drunk’ during the debate, but later said he had two glasses of wine and denied it impacted his ability to chair the discussion.

He said his failure to intervene was ‘solely a question of lacking the the courage to stop someone in front of a room of 400’.

Mr Graham-Dixon said during the debate: ‘The romantic tradition of German art was rejected by this modern art.

‘This modern, horrible art that was promoted by the Jews… and the modern art, it was cubist – inspired by the art of the ne***s.

‘This tribal art, urgh, how horrible is that? We must expunge this from our Deutschland.

‘We are the pure, Aryan people. Our genetics is pure, our hearts must be pure, our tastes must be pure.’

Despite the offence caused, Mr Graham-Dixon’s side against the motion won the debate on Thursday evening. 

In an open letter, Mr Bradwell wrote: ‘I would like to offer my unreserved apology for the comments made by a speaker in our debate on Thursday night.

‘Neither I nor the society condones the thoughtless and grotesque language used by the individual in question, and I am sorry for my failure to intervene at the time.

‘The speaker in question employed a crass and deeply insensitive impression of Hitler to make the point in opposition that there is such a thing as bad taste […] It was inexcusable, and I regret not intervening.’

Mr Bradwell, who had said he was ‘quite drunk’ during the debate, later said in the open letter it did not affect his abilities to chair the talk.

He said: ‘I had two glasses of wine over dinner beforehand, as did our speakers, and I drew attention to that fact, prior to the speech in question, in order to add to what was at that stage still a convivial debate. 

‘I was not impeded in my ability to chair the debate; my failure to intervene was solely a question of lacking the the courage to stop someone in front of a room of 400.’

Union Equalities officer Zara Salaria said art historian Mr Graham-Dixon’s impression was ‘absolutely unacceptable’ and ‘utterly horrifying’

Union Equalities officer Zara Salaria said Mr Graham-Dixon’s impression was ‘absolutely unacceptable’ and ‘utterly horrifying.’

Former President of the Cambridge Union Joel Rosen tweeted he felt ‘physically sick’ from what he saw at the event.

Mr Graham-Dixon also released a statement saying: ‘The intention of my speech was to underline the utterly evil nature of Hitler and his regime.

‘He caricatured Jewish people and black people and homosexuals in all kinds of terrible ways and curated a huge art exhibition – called Degenerate Art – as propaganda for his poisonous views.

‘In my speech I caricatured him, briefly, paraphrasing HIS crass and insensitive statements about art and race. I’d hoped this was crystal clear to all present.

‘My point was that evil ideas in the sphere of art can have untold and even atrocious consequences in the rest of life.

‘Those familiar with my work will know that I have always spoken out against racism or any form of discrimination.

‘I apologise sincerely to anyone who found my debating tactics and use of Hitler’s own language distressing; on reflection I can see that some of the words I used, even in quotation, are inherently offensive.

‘It was not my intention to upset anybody, merely to persuade them that bad taste and bad morality often go hand in hand.’

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