The University of York Conservative and Unionist Association has been criticised for inviting a “misogynistic” Member of Parliament to speak on campus in a forthcoming academic term.
The society, better known as the York Tories, has received criticism on social media for extending an invitation to Philip Davies, the MP for Shipley, to speak on campus.
A former member of the 1922 Committee, Davies has represented his constituency of Shipley for over ten years. He has been a vocal supporter of the case for leaving the European Union. Davies was returned to his seat in the most recent election, albeit with a smaller majority.
The York Tories announced yesterday that Davies had been invited to speak on the 9th of February 2018. However, some students reacted with anger at the group’s decision to welcome him to the campus.
One student described Davies as “the most misogynistic MP”. Huw James, a Liberal Democrat and Chief News Reporter of York Vision, stated on Facebook that he and “many others” intended to attend the event and question Davies on his views.
The York Tories addressed his criticism online:
…being inclusive means providing an open environment in which all views and opinions can be debated and challenged. Even those with which you may disagree, including Mr. Davies. To decline to give a platform to those who may be considered controversial amounts to no platforming something I would [sic] you would find repugnant. Therefore to not invite Mr. Davies to discuss his views on a profusion of issues would be the antithesis of inclusivity. Hope you find this response satisfactory.
James responded that he did not wish to challenge Davies’ freedom of speech, but that the Conservative Party enjoys “lots of strong powerful and arguably fab voices,” and that “who [the York Tories] choose to lend the microphone to is merely questionable.” James declined to answer The Yorker‘s request for comment.
The York Tories told The Yorker:
As evidenced by the strong reaction on social media, the York Tories have once again taken a lead in raising the levels of public debate at our university. We are pleased to further the cause of two of the cornerstones of our nation: freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
Davies is well-known for his criticisms of feminism and the modern feminist movement. The MP was criticised for speaking at the International Conference on Men’s Issues, an event produced by the political party Justice for Men & Boys, in 2016, in which he told the attendants that feminists “fight for their version of equality on all the things that suit women – but are very quick to point out that women need special protections and treatment on other things.”
Other speakers at the Conference included Paul Elam, founder of A Voice for Men, and the author Herbert Purdy. Justice for Men & Boys, which once gave awards for “lying” and “toxic” feminists, has argued that radical feminists “suffer from a range of psychological disorders” with one such ailment being “Feminist Personality Disorder.”
In an article concerning supposed links between feminists and autism, the party’s leader concluded that “we need to start treating radical feminists as women with a condition that may require professional support, rather than turning the world upside down in an utterly futile attempt to placate them.”
After an earlier article referred to Justice for Men and Boys, an anonymous web user sent The Yorker an article entitled “15 ACTIONS MEN CAN TAKE TO PROTECT THEMSELVES AGAINST FEMINISM” on International Women’s Day 2017. These fifteen actions have previously been published on the party’s website.
In response questions from the media, Davies said that he did not align himself with all the views expressed by the minor political party.
The York Tories themselves have been subject to accusations of sexism in recent months. In November 2016 a Nouse report stated that a “culture of sexism” existed in the society. Finn Judge, who had attended a York Tories AGM and now edits Nouse, told the paper at the time of an atmosphere engineered to make female members uncomfortable during the society’s elections.
“If the allegation [of sexism] proves true, as a society, we will utterly condemn it. This sort of behaviour cannot be acceptable within what has always been a fair and inclusive society,” the then-Chairman-elect of the York Tories, Arthur Reynolds, responded to Nouse journalists.
Other online critics drew attention to the society’s election of Donald Trump, the current President of the United States, as Honorary President of the Society. A member of the society told student journalists at the time that the elections for the position is “intentionally chaotic and mad.”
Other speakers invited by the York Tories this term include Sam Bowman, the Executive Director of the Adam Smith Institute, and Darren Hughes, Executive Director of the Electoral Reform Society.
This article was amended on 9th September 2017. The article previously stated incorrectly that Finn Judge was a member of the York Tories. This was based on an inaccuracy from an earlier Nouse report. This has been rectified.