Education Select Cttee chair slams NUS after controversial rapper Lowkey booked for event

23 March 2022, 09:29 | Updated: 23 March 2022, 09:32

By Emma Soteriou

The chair of the Education Select Committee has criticised the National Union of Students (NUS) after controversial rapper Lowkey was booked for a key event.

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LBC's political editor, Theo Usherwood, found last week that the rapper was due to appear at the NUS's annual conference at the end of the month.

It came days after a Zoom chat featuring Lowkey emerged online claiming mainstream media had "weaponised the Jewish heritage" of Ukraine's President Zelenskyy to "stave off" inquiries about far-right groups in Ukraine.

The rapper has also shown support in the past to academic David Miller, who has been accused of pushing numerous anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

Plans for the event sparked an uproar from Jewish students who complained as they were told they could instead find an "existing safe space designated for students who are sensitive to loud noise during Lowkey's performance".

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At the time, an NUS spokesperson said: "Lowkey has been invited to speak at NUS Liberation Conference which brings together students from marginalised groups on 30 and 31 March.

"This conference takes place in the same week as NUS National Conference at the same venue in Liverpool."

Lowkey was later pulled from the line-up altogether. However, the NUS was unapologetic, claiming in a message to students on Monday that Lowkey had been victim of "harassment and misinformation".

NUS President Larissa Kennedy said she was "more concerned about who she might hurt if the event was cancelled".

MPs planned to question the union over the incident during an appearance before the Education Select Committee on Tuesday, but a representative pulled out citing illness.

The NUS later tweeted the "old-school bullying culture" from the committee was unacceptable.

Speaking on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, committee chair Robert Halfon said: "It was pretty ridiculous for the NUS to put out a tweet like that.

"In fact, it was a Labour member of the committee who a few weeks ago asked for the NUS to appear before our committee when we were questioning a number of witnesses about higher education.

"I really worry about what's going on with the NUS - it appears to be almost institutional anti-semitism within that organisation - telling Jews to sit away or be segregated, inviting this controversial rapper who's accused of all kinds of conspiracy theories and anti-semitic statements which have caused grave upset to Jewish people and people of other faiths as well. It's quite extraordinary.

"And for them to respond to an all-party committee and say that we are bullying them is literally absurd and quite offensive as well."

Mr Halfon also added that he may refer the NUS to the Equalities commission for an investigation to be carried out.

He told Nick: "We're going to try and hold an accountability session with the NUS.

"If they refuse to put someone up, it leaves it a little bit empty doesn't it?" Nick asked.

"Most witnesses, when we ask, do turn up," Mr Halfon said.

"It will be very strange for the NUS not to turn up.

"There's nothing I can do to force them to appear before our committee but if they don't turn up I will continue to publicise this in Parliament and it may get to the stage where we need to contact the Equalities and Human Rights commission to do an investigation into NUS and see whether or not there is institutional anti-semitism within that organisation just as they did that investigation into Corbyn's Labour party."