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Gavin Williamson criticises Oxford University students for removing Queen's portrait
8 June 2021, 21:34
Gavin Williamson has branded a reported move by Oxford University students to remove the Queen's picture from their common room, because she is a symbol of colonialism, as "simply absurd".
Members of the Magdalen College Middle Common Room, which is made up of post-graduate students, overwhelmingly voted to remove the portrait, according to reports.
Political website Guido Fawkes reported the motion was launched to make members "feel welcome", with one student said to have commented "patriotism and colonialism are not really separable".
The alleged decision sparked a backlash on Twitter, with the president of Magdalen College swiftly moving to distance the institution itself from the students involved.
On Tuesday evening, the Education Secretary tweeted: "Oxford University students removing a picture of the Queen is simply absurd.
Oxford University students removing a picture of the Queen is simply absurd. She is the Head of State and a symbol of what is best about the UK. During her long reign she has worked tirelessly to promote British values of tolerance, inclusivity & respect around the world— Gavin Williamson (@GavinWilliamson) June 8, 2021
"She is the Head of State and a symbol of what is best about the UK. During her long reign she has worked tirelessly to promote British values of tolerance, inclusivity and respect around the world."
Barrister Dinah Rose, who was appointed president of Magdalen College last year, emphasised that the students were not representative of the college, but supported their right to "free speech and political debate".
In a series of tweets, she said: "Here are some facts about Magdalen College and HM the Queen.
"The Middle Common Room is an organisation of graduate students. They don't represent the College.
"A few years ago, in about 2013, they bought a print of a photo of the Queen to decorate their common room.
"They recently voted to take it down. Both of these decisions are their own to take, not the College's.
"Magdalen strongly supports free speech and political debate, and the MCR'S right to autonomy.
"Maybe they'll vote to put it up again, maybe they won't. Meanwhile, the photo will be safely stored."
She finished: "Being a student is about more than studying. It's about exploring and debating ideas. It's sometimes about provoking the older generation.
"Looks like that isn't so hard to do these days."
On its website, Magdalen College Middle Common Room described itself as "one of the biggest graduate communities of the traditional Oxford Colleges".
It states: "Our graduates come from many different countries throughout the world, and have diverse interests, academic and otherwise.
"The MCR forms an integral part of the Magdalen graduate experience - not only do we organise social and cultural events for students so that we can make the utmost out of our time in Oxford, but we also provide a network of support for graduate life in representing the concerns of students to the College."