King’s Think Tank: “We Didn’t Send Angry Email to Boris Johnson”

“The invitation to Mr Johnson stands, as we never wished to withdraw it.” says Think Tank VP Erica Arcudi.

Student-led policy institute King’s Think Tank did not send a letter to Boris Johnson withdrawing his invitation to speak at a EU Referendum event at King’s College London.

The individual, responsible for sending the email and who signed himself as “Director of EU Referendum Events at King’s College London”, is in fact neither a College student nor member of King’s Think Tank.

As King’s Think Tank wishes to abstain from mentioning the name of the individual, he will be referred to as “A”.

Major news outlets such as the Telegraph, Independent and Huffington Post have published articles alleging that the Think Tank had “no-platformed” the London mayor, when in actual fact none of the society’s committee members had the chance to read or approve the letter before it was sent.

On 23 April an email circulated on social media disinviting Boris Johnson to attend the Vote Leave group in a series of events running up to June’s EU Referendum. The email cited Johnson’s controversial remarks about Barack Obama’s Kenyan heritage and his “general tone of disrespect” as the reasons.

The email that was King's Think Tank allegedly sent to Boris Johnson (Source: Ryan Heath)

The email that King’s Think Tank allegedly sent to Boris Johnson (Source: Ryan Heath)

“A” had sent the above email without the consent of Margot McDonnell or Erica Arcudi.

“A”’s email contained a clue of counterfeit – in the three signatures at the bottom; president of King’s Think Tank Margot McDonnell’s surname was misspelled as “MacDonnell”.

Furthermore the individual’s name doesn’t appear in the university’s student and staff directories. A spokesperson for the College has clarified: “The title ‘Director of EU Referendum Events at King’s College London’ is not an official university title, nor is the individual in question a student or member of staff at King’s.”

Vice-president Erica Arcudi has confirmed that “A” was a volunteer external to the university. She has also stated that King’s Think Tank will be dealing with this matter internally and the society or university will not be working with him in the future.

The media has tied this incident in with the National Union of Students’ (NUS) “no-platform” policy, which bans groups or individuals deemed to be offensive from speaking on student campuses.

“No, King’s Think Tank did not ‘no-platform’ Boris Johnson,” said George Houghton, editor-in-chief of King’s Think Tank’s magazine Spectrum. “We had invited him as part of our series of events on the EU referendum, to which he had not replied.”

Speaking of the media misrepresenting King’s Think Tank, Houghton shared: “I think it would be fair to say that we are irritated. It is understandable in some ways for the media to report it in such a way, considering the spate of ‘no-platforming’ that is flooding through universities currently, but it is unfortunate for us as we have a firm anti-‘no-platforming’ stance. It reflects very poorly, and disingenuously, on us.”

The society has released an official statement on Twitter.

Correction: A source has asked to withdraw a quote. (28 April 2016)

Additional reporting by Areeb Ullah.