“Social mobility? Give me social class any day”. Katie Hopkins condemned for class and gender comments at the Union

Hazel Shearing 14 May 2014

Around 200 students turned up to watch media hate-figure Katie Hopkins speak at the Union tonight. The woman who has been described as “the biggest bitch in Britain” sparked heavy criticism when she told the chamber that she saw no reason for Cambridge being judged on the number of state school students.

An hour before she was due to speak, Hopkins set up a provocative platform for debate by tweeting, “Cambridge Uni offered fewer state students places last year. Since when was % state school students a criteria for success? Perverse.”

Her tweet referenced an article published in The Times this morning highlighting the 2% fall in the number of places offered to state school students between 2012 and 2013. Hopkins told Union members “I think preserving an elite system [like Cambridge] is a fantastic thing… Do I want this place to be judged by the number of state school children? No”.

She dismissed what she described as a “social mobility policy”. Laughing at the phrase “social mobility”, she exclaimed, “Give me social class any day”.

Hopkins’ comments on state schools were met by heavy rebuttal from the floor. Having claimed that if Cambridge accepted more state school applicants it would eventually have to lower its grade standards, one student replied, “Do you not think we’ve already lowered our standards by letting you speak?” She failed to respond to this and another point made that state school applicants often end up getting better degrees.

The Sun columnist became increasingly uncomfortable when President Michael Dunn Goekjian moved the discussion onto race. He accused Hopkins of inconsistency when she discriminated against children for things that they can’t control such as “working class” names, yet drew a line at racism. When asked if she would let her children play with black children, Hopkins responded, “The name thing had nothing to do with race or religion… I am not a racist”.

Having already provoked debates over class and race, Hopkins made further inconsistent remarks on gender issues. A self-proclaimed “feminist”, she told the chamber that when it came to rape threats, “I have come to a position where I accept that’s going to happen to me every other day”, relating her position back to her motto, “if you don’t like it, don’t put yourself out there”.

The Union’s decision to have invited Hopkins to speak in the first place has come under fire from many students. Tom, a second-year at Queens’, told The Cambridge Student that she should not be given the platform. “Any publicity she gets just encourages her to become more outrageous, if no one listened or gave her attention she would soon disappear from newspapers and TV”, he said, adding, “I don’t know if [my] comment will contradict the point”.

However, several attendees told TCS after the event that it was the job of the Union to provide a platform for any speaker. “[Hopkins] is a prominent figure at the moment”, one member commented, “The Union should be diverse – they shouldn’t just have people because they’re really famous academics.”

Another member believed that Hopkins is “a very smart businesswoman”, citing her success on The Apprentice. He said, “You can tell that in some of the questions she replied seriously, and some of them she replied in the persona she puts on for television.”

Many students still feel, though, that the Union should not pander to this media persona when it comes to Hopkins’ offensive views. Alex, a history student at Murray Edwards, told TCS, “[It] is just pandering to tabloid sensationalism. Just because she talks loudly and deliberately controversially, it doesn’t make her interesting or important – can’t the Union give someone a voice who has something to say of genuine significance?”