Debates back LSE students

4 February 1969

This week Guild Gazette, as well as reporting on last week’s sit-in at the Social Sciences building in support of students at the LSE,  carries this front-page account of the discussion in the House of Debates on the same issue:

A packed House of Debates last week passed overwhelmingly a motion supporting the students of the London School of Economics in their actions against the school authorities.

The motion that “this house offers full support to LSE students in their demands for – 1. Reopening LSE, no gates, no police; 2. No victimisation, Drop all charges against students; 3. Stop the staff from acting as political informers” which was a private members motion proposed by Mr David Jenkins of the Politics department, was passed by 164 votes to 40 with hardly any abstentions.

Despite some heckling and reminders from the chair that as this was only a private members motion and there were guests in the house Mr Jenkins gave a lengthy account of the events leading to and following the closing of LSE.

Miss Ann Mullin, who had earlier been the subject of heated exchanges between President Richard Davies and Mr Chris Chopping, spoke against the motion, but like Mr Jenkins she was frequently interrupted by points of information.

Mr Brian Gallon, a student from the London School of Economics who was visiting Liverpool for a few days added to Mr Jenkins’ description of the events in LSE and answered several questions on the details of the removal of the iron gates and the school’s closure. Mr. Gallon also asked “Why is it necessary for us to have to take up the time of the House of Debates on this matter. Why doesn’t Liverpool have general meetings of Guild where important matters like this can be discussed?”

Mr Chopping made a short, but poignant, speech for the opposition. However all his points, including the relevance of this issue to Panto were answered in a forceful manner by Mr Peter Cresswell, in summing up for the proposition.

The vote was finally taken after almost an hour and a half of debate. The result was followed by demands that the result should be made known not only to the students of LSE but also to the Liverpool Daily Post which had that morning carried a story stating that 6,200 Liverpool students were ignoring the sit-in over LSE .

The main debate of the evening, which followed, was to the motion “This House believes freedom of speech enslaves effective government.” Prince Michael Grousinski, pretender to the throne of Georgia, in Russia, proposed the motion and his eloquent command of history added variety to the political divisions of the House. Typical of his speech was his reply to the suggestion that monarchy suppressed the people. “No it lifts them up to heaven,” he said seriously.

The humour Prince Michael added to the occasion was soon lost, however, when Mr E J Hamm of Oswald Mosley’s party rose to oppose the motion. For a short time he received a passive hearing, but his assertion that “the Black shirts did not brutally remove questioners from meetings in the 1930s” angered many students, especially one whose mother was threatened and whose companions were kicked down stairs at one such meeting.

At this point a considerable group stood up and walked from the debating chamber. One of the protesters later commented: ”I did not walk out because Mr. Hamm is a member of a fascist organisation. I am prepared to argue and debate against anyone irrespective of political belief. I walked out because I am not prepared to listen to deliberate and blatant lies.”

Later as Mr Peter Ryrie, past president of Guild made an attack on Mr Hamm’s movement, a number of large men from outside the University took up positions near the exits. However, there was no real trouble and those remaining in the House defeated the motion by 43 votes to 41 with 23 abstentions.

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Author: Gerry

Retired college teacher living in Liverpool, UK.

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