MP’s concern at Bristol Uni’s lack of antisemitism training following
The MP Christian Wakeford has raised concerns over the progress made by Bristol University in implementing training on antisemitism and inclusion in the wake of the Professor David Miller scandal.
Speaking in the Commons the MP for Bury South said a letter sent to university by a group of parliamentarians last October asking for details on inclusion training programmes had been ignored.
Wakeford used Thursday’s Adjournment Debate on Antisemitism and Bristol University to call on Robin Walker, Minister of State for School Standards of UK, to write to the institution and “find out what training they have been doing, who has provided it, and what quality assurance has been applied.”
Get The Jewish News Daily Edition by email and never miss our top stories Free Sign Up
Miller was finally sacked from his job as a sociology professor last Octoberafter a disciplinary hearing and two internal investigations following a series of complaints against him by Jewish students and communal organisations over a period of nearly three years.
He had infuriated students with his theoriesabout the “transnational Zionist movement” – and had later accused Jewish students at his own university of being “pawns” that were “directed by Israel” as part of a global Israeli campaign to destroy free speech and democracy.
Speaking to MPs, Wakeford said it was “profoundly troubling” that in 2022 he needed to “publicly speak about hatred being directed towards Jewish students on university campuses.”
Bury South MP Christian Wakeford (Conservatives on Twitter)
He added:”What should also be alarming to colleagues in this House and all those in wider society, is the amount of Parliamentary time that has been dedicated to this issue over the previous two years.”
Wakeford recalled that after Miller’s dismissal last October, Professor Tansy Jessop, the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education at Bristol, had given evidence to the Education Select Committee.
Jessop had, he said, “mentioned that several training programmes are being run at the University including on inclusion, Islamophobia, and antisemitism. ”
But the MP said a letter sent from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism sent in October “asking for details of the training, ignored the request.”
Wakeford also issued a warning that the government’s proposed Higher Education Freedom of Speech Bill risked giving academics such as Miller “recourse to the courts when expressing themselves within their area of expertise.”
Wakeford called on the Minister to “meet again with me and the Antisemitism Policy Trust, CST, UJS and others about how the Bill can be amended to prevent this happening.”
There is concern that the Bill, aimed at protecting free speech on campuses, could itself allow those expressing extreme views about Jews, Zionism and even the Holocaust, to defend their right to be able to outline such opinions in the courts.
Minister Walker denied that the proposed Higher Education Bill would give a “green light” to Holocaust deniers.
But he claimed it would protect Israeli speakers from being shut down from campus events.
Tzipi Hotovely being bundled into a car and driven away from the LSE event
During the debate Wakeford detailed examples of Miller’s conduct while at the university and said he had “abused his position to extol dangerous antisemitic conspiracy theories to his impressionable students.”
He added:”Miller conducted a module called ‘Harms of the Powerful’, including a PowerPoint slide with a fanciful diagram featuring a web of Jewish organisations, placed under or subservient to the ‘Israeli government’. ”
An initial investigation into Miller’s conduct was dropped by university chiefs, Wakeford explained.
He told MPs:”It has subsequently transpired that the person who was charged with investigating this matter was a close colleague who was notorious for holding similar political views to Miller.
“The then Member for Bassetlaw, now Lord Mann, wrote on behalf of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, to the University in July 2019 asking it to review its disciplinary processes and consult antisemitism experts, but the institution refused. ”
Wakeford recalled how Miller was challenged by Jewish News at one stage over his comments in relation to the Community Security Trust.
He told MPs:”When challenged on these comments by Jewish News, Professor Miller said that CST ‘is an organisation that exists to run point for a hostile foreign government in the UK… this is a straightforward story of influence-peddling by a foreign state’.
“This comment alone is blatantly antisemitic.”
Wakeford continued:”The fact Bristol University took so long to act as Miller, a racist, peddled baseless conspiracy theories about his own students will be a permanent stain on its reputation. Initially, it stood by Miller’s teaching instead of protecting Jewish students from suspicion and discrimination.
“The fact Bristol University did not act to protect Jewish students who were subjected to his disgusting conspiracy theories is a disgrace.”
The MP stressed that “most” Jewish students will enjoy an incident free and happy time on campus, but said he had heard the testimonies of those who had been troubled by what they had experienced.
The chair of the APPG on Antisemitism Andrew Percy also confirmed Bristol University chiefs had failed to respond to a letter requesting detail of training now being undertaken on antisemitism.
Percy told MPs it was “frankly a disgrace” the letter had been ignored so far.
Walker said the government welcomed Bristol completing its investigation into Miller and called for future investigations to be completed in a swifter manner.
He said a summit focused on tackling antisemitism and making Jewish students feel safer would be taking place later this month.
Walker said the Minister for Further Education was also happy to commit to meeting with Wakeford to discuss his concerns on Bristol.