Published: 9 November, 2012
by TOM FOOT
AN anti-war demonstration has been called at University College London after former Prime Minister Tony Blair was invited to speak at a “resilience” conference.
The Stop The War Coalition has summoned its membership to protest outside the Gower Street campus on Tuesday from 11am.
Veteran campaigner Tony Benn, journalist John Pilger and Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn are among the thousands who have signed a petition against the conference.
It says Mr Blair “took our country to war against Iraq in a flagrant violation of the UN Charter and in doing so committed the international crime of aggression”, adding: “A leading education centre should not be seen to endorse such behaviour. We will be supporting protests if the invitation stands.”
Mr Blair is headlining the “Building an Ethos of Resilience” conference at an event organised by the Institute for Security & Resilience Studies (ISRS).
He will sit on a panel alongside education secretary Michael Gove, UCL Professor David Price and actor and TV presenter Ross Kemp.
Tickets are priced at £714 but the location is being kept secret from the public so Mr Blair can keep a low profile.
A UCL spokesman said it would not be held in one of the university’s buildings.
The ISRS was founded in 2008 by former defence minister and Blair ally Lord Reid.
Its commercial backers are defence industry leaders Ultra Electronics and EADS.
It was set up to combat security challenges that are “faced by us all”, according to its homepage on the UCL website.
Board members include UCL’s Provost, Professor Malcolm Grant, and the seventh Marquis of Salisbury, Robert Cecil.
A Stop The War Coalition spokesman said: “It is a disgrace that Blair should show his face anywhere in public, least of all in a place of learning. Our response should be clear: kick warmongers and arms dealers out of our universities.”
A UCL spokesman said the event did not necessarily mean it endorsed “any views expressed”, adding: “This is a self-funded event owned by the ISRS, an independent research organisation affiliated to UCL.
“UCL is an institution that values freedom of speech highly. Provided the law is observed, we do not operate a policy of barring speakers with controversial views.”