Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Peter Hitchens' Portsmouth University speech cancelled

Peter Hitchens
Image caption Peter Hitchens is a regular contributor on TV and radio programmes

Columnist Peter Hitchens has said he is being "censored" after a university speaking event was pulled.

The Mail on Sunday writer was due to speak at Portsmouth University's student union.

But it retracted his invitation on Wednesday after students said his appearance clashed with LGBT events scheduled on campus.

Mr Hitchens said it "broke the principle of free speech". The union insisted it would reschedule his event.

The writer and broadcaster, who is known for his conservative standpoint on some social issues, said he had been in discussions with the union about an event on 12 February.

He said he was due to be interviewed on stage about a variety of subjects.

But the union issued a statement saying the event was being postponed after students had raised concerns that "the published views of Peter Hitchens are not necessarily aligned with the Students' Union's vibrant celebration of the LGBT+ community this month."

He has previously spoken out in the debate over same-sex marriage, saying opponents were "hounded and treated as pariahs".

Vice president Charlotte Beaney insisted the union would "value and uphold" freedom of speech and had emailed an invitation to reschedule his visit to the campus but no date had been set.

The issue divided opinions on social media.

Mr Hitchens said excuses were being "dredged up" to prevent him from speaking.

"It doesn't seem to be the point - what does it matter if there happened to be a LGBT+ event the same week? If someone has been invited to speak, there is no excuse, especially in an institution devoted to freedom of thought, speech and education.

"Here at a university where people are supposed to be free to speak and think as they wish, people actually aren't."

In 2018 a report from peers and MPs said free speech in university is under threat from "intolerant attitudes".

New guidance was subsequently drawn up by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, in collaboration with 10 organisations including the National Union of Students and Department for Education.

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