UJS ‘concerned’ as Office for Students chair speaks at event featuring antisemite

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UJS ‘concerned’ as Office for Students chair speaks at event featuring antisemite

Lord Wharton sent video message to Republican conference in Hungary, which platformed Zsolt Bayer a television talkshow host who previously called called Jews 'stinking excrement'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Lord Wharton delivers video speech to conference
Lord Wharton delivers video speech to conference

The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) have joined calls for the Conservative Party to explain why the chair of England’s university regulator participated in a conference for the Republican party, which also platformed a notorious racist and antisemite.

James Wharton, chair of the Office for Students (OfS), spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Hungary, Budapest last Friday.

Lord Wharton, who ran Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign, sent a video message to the conference.

That same day Zsolt Bayer a television talkshow host in Hungary appeared on the stage.

Bayer has previously called Jews “stinking excrement” and referred to Roma as “animals”, as well as demonising Black people.

The UJS issued a statement on Monday saying:”We are concerned by this issue and have contacted Lord Wharton to seek urgent clarification due to the impact this could have on Jewish students.”

In his speech, shared on Twitter, Wharton hailed the recent victory of the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán,

He also said Cpac was a “great chance to pick up new ideas”, to “reconnect with friends across the world” and to “fight for the values that we all hold dear.”

Jack Posobiec, a far-right US blogger who has been condemned for using antisemitic images also spoke as did former US president Donald Trump, and the former Ukip leader Nigel Farage.

Anneliese Dodds, the shadow women and equalities secretary and chair of the Labour party, called on the Conservatives to clarify whether Wharton was given permission to attend Cpac,

In a letter to the Tory co-chair Oliver Dowden, the Guardian reported that she wrote: “Will you urgently explain whether the Conservatives think it is acceptable for the chair of the Office for Students to publicly endorse Mr Orbán at a time when Lord Wharton is responsible for defending academic freedom in this country? And will you condemn Lord Wharton for sharing a platform with racists, antisemites and rightwing extremists?”

Munira Wilson, the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for education, said: “It’s incredibly disturbing that the head of the independent regulator for higher education moves in such circles. There’s no reasonable excuse for keeping such company.”

The OfS said Lord Wharton was not speaking in his capacity as chair as the OfS.

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi told MPs on Monday, when questioned about Wharton: “I support the chair of the Office for Students for all his work that he’s doing in improving outcomes for students in our universities.”

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