Iain Duncan Smith erupts at ‘cosseted’ students banning Army from campus

Both Conservative MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps have criticised Bristol University students who took a stance against the British Army and banned them from having a stall at their freshers’ fair at the University Students’ Union, this week.

The Officers’ Training Corps (OTC) enables students to experience military life alongside their studies and they often have a stand at various universities across the UK – this year they were denied a stall at Bristol University. 

A spokesperson for the students said the decision had been made because the OTC offers experiences such as “making friends, developing leadership skills and adventure activities” which places it in “direct competition” with other groups affiliated to the Union.

Conservative MP Sir Iain blasted the move. He said: “It is a sad reflection of how these safe and cosseted young students forget so quickly who it is that safeguards their freedoms.”

READ MORE: Grant Shapps: Don’t underestimate me on defending the country

Speaking in the Daily Mail, Sir Iain added: “It is our servicemen and women who, rejected by these students today, will save them tomorrow.”

Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps, has also called the ban “absurd” and “indefensible”. 

Expanding upon his reasoning, and as reported in The Telegraph, Grant Shapps, said: “University OTCs provide students with a unique opportunity to gain new experiences, develop valuable skills, and have amazing adventures.”

He also argued the defence industry was “crucial to protecting our freedom”.

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Defence sources told the Telegraph, it was not “unprecedented” for OTCs in the UK to be prevented from attending a freshers’ fair.

They said: “Student unions tend to be quite Left-wing liberal, so OTCs aren’t always popular with the majority of the student body.”

On the Bristol Student Union’s website, it said the Welcome Fair would be the “biggest event of the year”, with over 13,000 students and more than 300 student groups with stalls hoping to sign up new members.

An student union spokesperson, speaking to the Telegraph said: “We assess requests made by unaffiliated groups on a case-by-case basis, considering a number of factors which have been communicated to the OTC, including that groups like the OTC offer an experience (such as making friends, developing leadership skills and adventure activities) which is very similar to, and therefore in direct competition with, our affiliated student groups.”

They added: “We respect our students’ right to raise concerns about issues they feel strongly about and we will continue to listen to and engage with their views.”

Notable former students at Bristol include comedian David Walliams, as well as presenter Susanna Reid and actor Simon Pegg.

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