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KCLSU & Societies

KCL Tories Event Features Fascist Armband and Far-Right Language

KCLCA logo and name
14 November 2023. Photography courtesy of Emma Carmichael.

On 8 February 2024, the King’s College London Conservative Association’s (KCLCA‘s) Port and Policy debate ended with the display of a fascist armband and far-right language during their motion on pursuing “Iranian regime change”.

The event was held in the King’s Building of King’s College London (KCL). On Instagram, the debate was tabled without an agenda*. Roar later received confirmation that the debate motions had been shared internally, finalised as ‘This house believes that marriage has been made an irrelevant institution’ and ‘This house would pursue Iranian regime change’. 

Official advertisement shared in London University Conservative group chats, confirming the debate motions.

Towards the end of the event, an attendee was reported to present a replica armband of the British Union of Fascists (BUF), a political party banned in 1940 for supporting Adolf Hitler. The armband was thrown** to the speaker and calls from the audience encouraged them to put it on. The speaker’s partner took it from them without it being worn.

This was not the only extremist idea advocated throughout the evening. A different attendee made reference to antisemitic tropes like “internationalists drinking baby’s blood” and “men like Kissinger” influencing American foreign policy, comments which were cheered along by the audience. One KCLCA member spoke to Roar and heavily criticised the debate, calling it “overtly fascist”. At another recent Port and Policy debate, Roar reporters observed fascist gestures, such as some members casting their votes with ‘Sieg Heil’ Hitler salutes.

Warfare and military intervention were recurrent themes during the Iranian ‘regime change’ motion. Much of the rhetoric throughout the debate was comprised of Christian-nationalism and imperialist attitudes. There were multiple references to crusades, non-Anglicans were called “heathens” and many of the arguments made included Islamophobic language.

Speakers deemed Iran “a test of military strength”, in case Britain intended to intervene in Russia, but also remarked that Britain should not put its soldiers at risk “so Iranian people can wear jeans”. A speaker argued in favour of “proper spine-chilling bloody warfare” when arguing that Britain should intervene in Iran in an attempt to revitalise Britain’s colonial spirit. Audience responses were to “bomb them” and that “that’s what nukes are for”. One speaker refused to clarify who they were referring to when they mentioned “flesh burn[ing] one last time before their miserable existence comes to an end”.

During an impromptu floor speech, one audience member made reference to the previous bombings of Syria, Iraq and Libya, condemning the removal of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. This concluded with the statement, “thank God Assad is still there”. This is in reference to Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president and alleged war criminal who has governed Syria’s totalitarian regime through a civil war. 

It was joked by attendees that the goal of regime change would not be to bring democracy but to build “a Wetherspoons on every corner” with “£8 cocktails and cheap chicken tikka masala”.

Racist jokes and comments were commonplace, with some being directed at audience members. Whilst debating the first motion, a speaker declared that “we need more Anglo-British babies” to balance out the number of first- and second-generation immigrants. When debating manpower needed for regime change, the audience called out that there is “no such thing” as British Iranians. A speaker, during their argument, pointed out an audience member, and said “if we invade Iran, we have more degenerates like him”. Later, a speaker pointed out one crowd member and asked “you’re a Muslim, aren’t you?” and “Do you accept Jesus as your lord and saviour?”.

One speaker criticised their opponent for wanting “your friends to be replaced by a Muslim immigrant that would rather douse you in acid than learn English”. Impromptu chants were also made to ‘sink the boats’, a reference to the recent controversial debate that was cancelled after Conservative HQ (CCHQ) deemed the event “obviously unacceptable” and Labour MP Jonathan Ashworth called the topic “a disgraceful new low”. 

A different speaker did attempt to reconcile the debate on Iran by noting that it was “time to be serious”. They mentioned the persecution of women and the LGBTQ+ community in Iran, with reference to the ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ movement that began in September 2022 after the death of Mahsa Amini. The audience, however, seemed unreceptive and scoffed at the attempt to restore the debate’s order.

The earlier motion, ‘This house believes marriage has been made an irrelevant institution’, had already set the scene for traditionalist ideas of women, modesty and family. A speaker argued that attendees “should support a nuclear family”, blaming the “woke agenda” for promoting that “marriage is not important” and that people should “have sex with as many people as [they] like”. Reference was also made on numerous occasions to same-sex marriages and transgender people, insisting that “marriage is between a man and a woman – 100%” and sneering jokes were made at “new men marrying men”.

Classist narratives were also commonplace across both motions. In the first debate motion, a speaker argued that crime rates are rising because children are being raised by single parents, with more children in Britain growing up with “TVs in their room than fathers in their home”. The same speaker re-iterated that the person making them “feel unsafe in Zone 5 at night” is unlikely to be from a married family, asking “do kids in married families pick up a knife at 16?”.

Comments were also made about teenage mothers, saying that children should be “born [to parents who are] a respectable age, instead of at 18”. At a later point a speaker fumbled their argument and an attendee shouted out “state school”, to which much of the audience laughed.

Reference was made to the KCLCA’s previous controversial motion to ‘restore the British Empire’, when a speaker added that invading Iran is “not restoring the British Empire – if it was then we’d all vote for it”. An attendee shouted “Bring it back!” which garnered cheers from the audience.

That previous debate, held last February, was initially due to take place on the Strand campus. Following pressure from other KCL societies and plans to picket the event, the location was changed and made secret to prevent non-members from attending. Accounts later published in Roar outlined the intricacies of the scandal, including insistent anonymous phone calls and derogatory language allegedly being used against dissenting members of UCL Tories. 

Pi Media report that the UCL Students’ Union (UCLSU) suspended the UCL Conservative Society on 26 January, only days after the cancelled ‘sink the boats’ motion, ahead of a “full investigation in line with [their] disciplinary procedures”. The King’s College London Students’ Union (KCLSU) has not publicly addressed the repeatedly controversial Port and Policy events since last February’s ‘British Empire’ debate, when the Union made a statement supporting freedom of expression, but also stating that they were “following up a number of lines of internal review, investigation and enquiry”.

At the time, the KCLSU also pointed to its joint statement on freedom of speech with King’s College London. In this, they affirm their “strong commitment to the values of freedom of expression, freedom of thought, freedom of conscience and religion and freedom of assembly”, adding that “the furtherance of intellectual inquiry necessarily involves ideas that are in dispute”. 

in response to a Roar request for comment, the KCLCA issued the following statement:

“The KCLCA is a student organisation that represents and champions mainstream Conservatism. We refute in the strongest possible terms any suggestion that the KCLCA is racist, Islamophobic, imperialist, homophobic or classist. The Association also condemns absolutely and unreservedly fascism and any other extremist viewpoints on both sides of the political spectrum. The views of speakers and attendees are their own: we do not condone in any manner uncivil debate which is no true reflection of the KCLCA.

It is very regrettably true, however, that an attendee, who is not a member of the Association or indeed of any LUC-affiliated organisation, chose to bring to the debate an item which is alleged to be a fascist armband. A lack of clarity regarding the nature of this item, thrown at a speaker, meant that this act was not called out at the time as it should have been and as it normally would have been. The item was discarded immediately by the speaker at whom it was thrown. We have identified the individual concerned and will ensure that this person is barred from future LUC events. The Association apologies wholeheartedly for not taking more stringent action in that instant, which should have included the immediate removal of this individual from the event.

Until this appalling act, the Association has endeavoured to be an open, accessible forum and has therefore welcomed all comers to our debating events. In light of this incident, however, we have launched an urgent review in respect of our admission policy. We will take all reasonable steps to ensure that the highest possible standards of integrity are upheld robustly.”

KCLCA, Saturday 10 February

Roar has approached KCLSU for a statement. 

*Edited at 22:45 to remove the claim that the Instagram post asked for motion suggestions.

**Edited at 22:45 from ‘given’ to ‘thrown’.


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