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Rishi Sunak said Kathleen Stock’s planned speech at Oxford University should go ahead in the interests of free speech
The Prime Minister has backed a gender critical professor whose planned appearance at Oxford University has sparked student protests.
Rishi Sunak said feminist Kathleen Stock should be allowed to deliver a speech at Oxford’s prestigious debating society, adding: “A free society requires free debate.”
His intervention comes after months of criticism from the university’s LBGTQ+ Society who called for Stock to be de-platformed from the event.
A series of protests and rallies, including a Trans+ Pride event, will take place on Tuesday afternoon ahead of Stock’s planned appearance.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Sunak said: “We should all be encouraged to engage respectfully with the ideas of others.
“University should be an environment where debate is supported, not stifled.
“We mustn’t allow a small but vocal few to shut down discussion. Kathleen Stock’s invitation to the Oxford Union should stand.”
The Prime Minister added that “agree or disagree” with the professor she is “an important figure in this argument.”
He said: “Students should be allowed to hear and debate her views.
“A tolerant society is one which allows us to understand those we disagree with, and nowhere is that more important than within our great universities.”
Reacting to Sunak’s comments on Tuesday, Stock said she was “glad” the senior politician recognised the “value of free speech and debate.”
“I hope Keir Starmer also agrees with him,” she told Times Radio.
On Monday, Stock said she was a “moderate” and that it was her trans activist opponents who were extreme for demanding the event be cancelled.
Speaking to ITV’s “Good Morning Britain,” she said: “We have to have freedom of speech, we have to be able to talk about this.
“Of course I am causing upset. The position I am fighting against causes a lot of upset: you’ve got male rapists in female prisons: that causes a lot of upset.
“You’ve got children transitioning, doing things to their bodies that they can’t take back: that causes upset to their parents.
“You’ve got huge numbers of women unable to talk about sex-based rights in their workplaces because they feel stifled: that causes upset.”
Stock’s invite to speak from members of the Oxford Union received a student backlash and calls for her invitation to be rescinded.
She was accused by some students as being transphobic over her gender identity views which include that it is fiction to claim “trans women are women.”
Dons Defend Feminist
Earlier this month, attempts to deplatform the philosopher were condemned in an open letter signed by more than 40 of Oxford’s dons including evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins.
The 44 scholars with “a range of different political beliefs, Left and Right” said universities should be “places where contentious views can be openly discussed.”
Last week, a group of Oxford University academics and staff signed a letter supporting the right of transgender students to speak out against her.
Oxford academics and staff first wrote to the Telegraph, condemning the approach of those who opposed Stock’s views.
The BBC reported that the open letter, shared on Saturday by the university’s LGBTQ+ society and signed by 100 academics and staff, said, “We believe that trans students should not be made to debate their existence.”
The Oxford Union has announced it is to offer “welfare resources” to students attending a talk by Stock, which is expected to cover “sensitive” topics.
The organisation, which describes itself as the “last bastion of free speech,” has said students will be able to “challenge” Stock at the event.
Oxford University’s Vice-Chancellor Irene Tracey also defended the right for Stock to speak there as a matter of “freedom of speech,” saying she believes that part of the university’s role is to enable students to deal with differing viewpoints.
She told the Times of London newspaper, “Most students actually get it and are quite impassioned about the fact that people should have a range of views.”
In 2021, Stock announced she would be leaving her job as a professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex after “a very difficult few years.”
The academic had faced calls to be sacked amid accusations of transphobia.
In a statement last month, the Oxford University LGBTQ+ society called for the feminist’s invitation to speak to be rescinded as it claimed she was “transphobic and trans-exclusionary.”
It also accused the Oxford Union of “disregarding” the welfare of the society’s members under the guise of free speech.
Stock said on Twitter that the society’s statement contained “several falsehoods,” was “probably defamatory” and made it look “utterly ridiculous.”
PA Media contributed to this report