On March 1, students gathered outside the Logie Lecture Theatre where Alastair Campbell’s lecture on ‘Fixing our broken politics: we cannot give up, we have to get involved’ was held.
Alastair Campbell was invited to lecture for this year’s Andrew Williamson Trust Lecture. The honorary lecture was established in memory of the late student Andrew John Williamson, who died in a car accident while studying politics at the university.
Campbell, who is frequently nicknamed ‘Spin Doctor’, was the Press Secretary and spokesperson for former Prime Minister Tony Blair and then later for the Labour Party in the early 2000s.
He worked for the Labour government before and during the Iraq War. Campbell was part of the team that released the ‘September Dossier’ which essentially led to the British invasion of Iraq with the help of the United States.
The Iraq inquiry did not find that said document was altered on the instructions of Campbell to match with what President Bush had stated in a speech. However, strong claims saying that he had been in charge of “sexing up” the document were investigated.
The claim in question was that the Iraqi military had weapons of mass destruction that were threatening both the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. The document claimed that the Iraqi government could deploy those weapons within 45 minutes – this was reported to have been included at the insistence of Alastair Campbell, according to the late weapons expert David Kelly.
When Campbell arrived at the University’s lecture theatre, he was greeted by booing from the gathered students and one student yelled out: “How are you going to fix our broken politics mate!”. This did not seem to faze Campbell as he laughed while passing the protesting students who were behind barriers.
Scottish Socialist Youth Stirling (SSYS) organised the protest. Brig spoke to member Morgan Lewis-Wilson on why they were protesting his visit.
He said: “Campbell played a key role in manufacturing public opinion for the British invasion of Iraq.”
While the lecture took place, the protesting students chanted “No justice, no peace. No warmongers on our streets.”
Organiser Josh Parsonage from the SSYS said that the protest was an opportunity for young students to show that they don’t want to be “passed on the baton of British imperialism”.
Two students who left the lecture early told the protestors that they “should protest harder because that lecture was a waste of time”.
They added: “Essentially the lecture was a promotion for his upcoming book, it wasn’t worth my time.”
While 200 seats in the theatre were reserved for students before being opened to the public, there seemed to be very few students that left the auditorium, a majority of the audience appeared to be older or else were staff at the university.
Student Union President, Tash Miller, was at the protest supporting students as she believed enough of the student body were protesting and that the invited speaker, Campbell, was someone who did not uphold the University of Stirling’s values.
She questioned why a person who does not uphold those values was invited to speak.
VP Communities, Jess Reid, added that it is the role of the Sabbatical officers to uphold the values of the Student Union. She said: “[I will] always support our students in their fight against discrimination, against imperialism and against people like Alastair Campbell.”
Zach Cooper sat in on the lecture and spoke about how the Q&A session appeared to be screened. Only one person raised the Iraq War and asked about the impact of his government’s actions at that time. Campbell replied that he had not really considered it and mentioned how the protestors outside see him “as the Devil”.
A student at the protest spoke about their experience as the child of someone who suffers trauma from the Iraq War. The speaker emphasised how people like Alastair Campbell are benefiting from the invasion, saying: “Western profits over Middle Eastern lives.”
Brig spoke to the University Vice-Chancellor Gerry McCormac after the lecture. When asked how he felt about the students that were engaging in politics outside the lecture, he said: “I think they have the right to protest…that’s what is important in society… unfortunately if they were to listen to him, they would have a better perspective on what the issues are.”
When Brig reached out to Alastair Campbell, he stated that he was “very pleased to be asked to do the lecture” and that he was “pleased too to see that student protest is alive and well”.
Featured Image Credit: Simi Borovská
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