Bristol University Conservative Association welcomes Darren Grimes

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Through Alice clarke, EU correspondent, and Joseph marshall, Associate Editor

On October 7, the Bristol University Conservative Association hosted Conservative commentator Darren Grimes.

A controversial British political activist, Grimes rose to prominence in the run-up to the 2016 European elections as a staunch supporter of Brexit, setting up the pro-leave “BeLeave” campaign while still a student. Since then the commentator has written for articles such as The telegraph and The spectator. He is a regular contributor to the GB News news channel, uploads commentary videos to his YouTube channel and regularly tweets his opinions to his 170,000 subscribers.

Darren Grimes speaks to the public in Basement 45. Epigram / Holly Beaumont.

Upon arriving at the event in Basement 45 on Frogmore Street, guests received “resist socialism” badges. Elliot Stein, president of the Bristol University Conservative Association, introduced Grimes to the audience, seeing him flanked by Turning Point UK banners. Grimes began by describing how he began his career in political activism as a member of the Liberal Democrats before “seeing the light” and moving to the right, adopting both conservative and anti- views. establishment.

Throughout the evening, the controversial figure looked back on his childhood, growing up in a single-parent family in County Durham, and explained how out of touch he felt in Westminster politics. He cited how his mother buying their consultancy house was one of his proudest moments, while arguing that young people would not be capitalists if they did not have capital. Grimes spoke for about half an hour, then invited the audience to ask questions.

When asked by a member of the public what he thought of Boris Johnson, Grimes criticized the current Conservative Party. He nicknamed them “rudderless”, with a complete lack of principles which he maintained that Margaret Thatcher had embodied. When asked later if the UK needed a character like Thatcher again, he fervently agreed.

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A member of the public asks a question | Epigram / Holly Beaumont

Grimes has consistently referred to the notion of “freedom”, claiming that freedom of speech is under attack on UK campuses. In that vein, he praised the decision of the University of Sussex that day to support speaker Dr Kathleen Stock who had been at the center of a line of transphobia. Although Grimes himself is gay, he noted that while there had been a “long, rich history” in the struggle for gay rights, there was not the same precedent for non-cisgender people, calling Demi Lovato “attention seeking” for their coming. as non-binary.

The Bristol University Conservative Association (BUCA) thanked Turning Point UK for their help with the event, an organization with which Grimes has been closely associated since its founding in 2019. TPUK aims to counter the so-called bias left wing in which they believe to be British education systems and is closely associated with Turning Point USA, a pro-Trump organization of Allied goals.

“You don’t have to agree with what he says, but I think you have to put up with him saying it”

Speaking to some attendees after the event, there was a range of opinions on Grimes and the Conservative Party and government today.

George, a freshman in neuroscience, argued that while he disagreed with some of what Grimes had to say, he agreed with Grimes’ presence based on the freedom of speech: “You don’t have to agree with what he said, but I think you have to tolerate him saying it.

Fresher languages ​​Fleur, who ran as a Conservative candidate in local elections earlier this year in Durham, considers herself a fan of Grimes. She felt frustrated with the larger university culture, arguing that being a Conservative shouldn’t be so controversial given that there is an elected Conservative majority government.

Most striking – and for many, disturbing – of all was Will, a freshman and BUCA member, who noted that while he agreed with much of what Grimes had to say, he was not. disagree with his “lifestyle choices”. When asked to clarify, Will referred to Grimes’ homosexuality. Although those present held varying beliefs, many expressed the feeling that they were unable to express their true political views in Bristol and were as concerned as Grimes about the so-called cancellation culture on the campus.

“Controversial speakers like Grimes are useful in generating debate”

BUCA President Elliot Stein said Epigram after the event he felt the event went well despite fears of potential protests. Stein said: “I thought there would be protests, but I wanted to avoid this at all costs.” Indeed, concerns about disruption and safety meant that guests only found out the day before where the event was due to take place and were subjected to bag checks and door patches.

On the controversy surrounding Darren Grimes and Turning Point UK, Stein stressed how important the debate is to him. While he admitted he was “not a fan of all” of the policies of Turning Point, he noted how “contentious speakers like Darren are helpful in starting the debate.”

Featured Image: Epigram / Joseph Marshall


Is there a free speech crisis on campus?



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