Ex-Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has accused Bristol University of giving a “free pass” to antisemitism with their failure to act swiftly over the now sacked Professor David Miller.
He also revealed that bosses at the institution “often didn’t reply” to his letters urging them to undertake a thorough investigation.
Speaking at a fringe event at the Tory Conference in Manchester, Jenrick also express concern about the government’s proposed Freedom of Speech Bill telling the audience: “I certainly don’t want to see a Holocaust denier on a university campus citing a piece of legislation produced by this government .”
In one of his first appearances since he was replaced in the cabinet role by Michael Gove, Jenrick drew applause from the audience at Conservative Home’s “Countering antisemitism – a front line in the struggle against extremism” event as he outlined his record of attempting to “root out” anti-Jewish racism.
The MP, who is married to an Israeli and whose children are raised as Jews, said he has always tried to attack antisemites “from the public sector and in institutions.”
Reflecting on Bristol Uni’s decision to sack sociology lecturer Miller last Friday, months after a investigation was launched back in March, Jenrick said:”To think that up to a couple of days ago there was a professor at Bristol University- one of this country’s most reputable institutions – who was spreading conspiracy theories an antisemitism on campus to the very students he was supposed to be protecting.
“And the university who knew this, took months and months to come to the conclusion that this man had no place on a university campus.”
Jenrick then confirmed:”I wrote to the university secretariat repeatedly, and they often didn’t even reply, or they would take weeks or months to send a fob off response.”
The former minister said they fact Bristol finally acted “show we need to have concerted action at universities, in councils, in schools and charities across the country.”
Commending the fact that the Tory government had adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism, Jenrick admitted there was progress in getting institutions to adopt it also, but admitted “there is clearly more we need to do.”
Tellingly, Jenrick did raise concerns about the Freedom of Speech legislation for Higher Education establishments that had been launched by former Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, before his was replaced in the role.
Echoing concerns raised by the Labour Party and the Hope not Hate charity about the proposals, Jenrick said:”I have concerns about the Freedom of Speech Bill. I think that it is a well intentioned piece of legislation – but it is not clear to me how well designed it actually is.
“I certainly don’t want to see a Holocaust denier on a university campus citing a piece of legislation produced by this government .
“I’m sure it will be subjected to a lot more scrutiny as it passes through its final stages of parliament . I think it needs to so, so we don’t’ make a mistake we regret.”
The Community Security Trust’s Director of Communications Dave Rich also outlined his concern about the rise in antisemitism amongst younger people in the UK, particularly during the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas in May.
Danny Stone, chief executive of the Antisemitism Policy Trust also spoke of the need for tough legislation to counter on-line hate.
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.