Oxford

Boris Johnson: Petition to ban PM from Balliol College

Boris Johnson Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Boris Johnson attended Balliol from 1983 to 1987, graduating with a BA in Classics

A petition has been launched by students at Boris Johnson's former Oxford University college, calling on it to bar him from the premises.

The Balliol College students behind the petition also want to prevent any portraits of the prime minister from being displayed.

The petition states that his alumnus privileges should be "suspended immediately".

The college said it would hear from students when the new term started.

Demonstrations have taken place across the UK since the prime minister's decision to suspend Parliament in the run-up to Brexit.

Harriet Lester and Andrew MacGowan decided to start the petition after meeting at a demonstration in Oxford, where crowds holding banners gathered outside the college.

Ms Lester, who is women's officer of Balliol Middle Common Room, said: "The demographics here have completely changed since Boris Johnson was a student.

"He does not represent our views and we don't want this person to be invited in as an alumnus, or have power within the college."

Traditionally, after leaving the college its alumni have access to the buildings, the dining hall, accommodation and the university's libraries.

The college's chapel would also be available to Mr Johnson if he wished to get married there.

Image copyright Prof Dan Hicks
Image caption People gathered outside the college to protest against the suspension of Parliament

Asked if the demands amounted to a stunt, Ms Lester responded: "I wouldn't say so because a lot of the students here are genuinely horrified by what he's done.

"We want to make sure that people who come here feel included."

Mr MacGowan, of Balliol's Junior Common Room, said: "We respect the result of the referendum. The point we're trying to make is about the prorogation of parliament which stops MPs debating at such a crucial time."

Image copyright Christine Matthews
Image caption Mr Johnson is the fourth prime minister to have attended Balliol

He said because Mr Johnson was a former member of the Bullingdon Club, notorious for its riotous drunken antics, he did not "represent any of the values of the college" either.

An open letter will be presented to the college committees at the start of term in October, and Ms Lester said she was "very hopeful" of opening up a dialogue with Balliol.

"They need to actively tell us they will not be putting up these portraits, inviting him to do talks or glorifying him in any way," she said.

The master of Balliol College, Dame Helen Ghosh said: "Balliol students have a long tradition of political engagement and an established and ongoing dialogue with the College through their elected presidents; we've agreed with them that, respecting their democratic process, we will wait to hear from them once the students have returned for the new academic year."

When asked to comment on the petition, a government spokesperson said the prime minister wanted to put "a proper domestic legislative programme" before MPs.

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