Richards Brooks said last month that “some people have more equal rights than others”BBC

Richard Brooks, NUS Vice President for Union Development, will be attending the disaffiliation debate at CUSU tonight, it has been confirmed.

Brooks will be arguing for the “No” vote – advocating that CUSU remains affiliated with the National Union of Students.

The debate is taking place ahead of a referendum of CUSU’s affiliation with NUS, voting for which open on the 24th May.

Charlie Chorley, Elections Committee spokesperson, told Varsity “Elections Committee was made aware last night that the No/Stay campaign had invited Richard Brooks to speak at the NUS debate this evening. The invitation came from a registered campaigner for the No/Stay campaign. Once we were made aware, we informed the Yes/[Leave] campaign.”

The “Yes” campaign was notified by an email sent at 00:35 this morning. The deadline for applying to speak will be at 16:00 today, with the debate happening at 19:00.

Adam Crafton, co-founder on the ‘NUS: Let Cambridge decide’ campaign, told Varsity “We were not aware that a Cambridge student debate run by the Cambridge University Students Union would feature external speakers. The timing of the email seems peculiar to say the least and we would really appreciate it if the elections committee could not wake us up in the early hours of the morning less than 72 hours before our finals begin.”

However, Chorley said that both campaigns had been given equal information about the possibility of having external speakers.

“The rules do not stipulate that external speakers cannot be invited,” she said, “Both parties have been given the same information; what they decided to do with that remains within their remit.”

Another member of Elections Committee told Varsity “Elections Committee let the Yes/Leave campaign know as soon as possible that No/Stay had invited an external speaker.”

Sources within CUSU have told Varsity that CUSU President Priscilla Mensah will be speaking for the “No” vote, advocating Cambridge’s continued affiliation with NUS.

There was controversy at the University of Exeter last week, after multiple NUS representatives arrived on campus to advocate the university remained affiliated. There were claims made that the campaign to remain had broken spending guidelines, however Exeter’s student guild said they had not received any formal complaints. The campaigns in Cambridge have a budget of £60 each, which may be spent on publicity materials.

“Brooks' travel costs will not be covered by any budget, or any campaign,” Chorley confirmed.

Crafton told Varsity “we look forward to talking with Richard Brooks – although it is quite regrettable that the controversial NUS President Malia Bouattia has dispatched her lapdog to do her bidding once more, rather than embracing the opportunity to answer the concerns of those she is supposed to represent in person."

As of 9:29 this morning, the “Yes” campaign had no speakers confirmed to attend tonight’s debate. At midday, Crafton told Varsity that the “Yes” campaign would be sending four speakers.

CUSU will host a debate at 7pm this eveningSimon Lock

Richard Brooks caused controversy last month, after saying in a televised discussion on no platforming that “some people have more equal rights than others”.

Asked about NUS’s stance on the practice of blocking speakers, he said: “There are six organisations on the NUS no platform list.

“This is very different to a safe space policy which is based on the idea that every single person has freedom of speech and everyone has equal right to freedom of speech, however some people have more equal rights than others. We’re making sure marginalised groups get their views heard.

“Both of those policies are democratically decided. They are not a part of a wider debate around censorship. I think everyone has freedom of speech but people’s platforms are different.”


For Varsity’s guide to the referendum, click here.

Update 12:18: Adam Crafton has told Varsity that the “Yes” campaign will be sending four speakers.

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