Last Thursday’s debate at the Oxford Union took an unusual turn when Edwina Currie, former Conservative MP and Junior Health Minister, removed the Union Secretary’s time limit warning bell as she refused to end her speech.
The debate, which dealt with the motion ‘This House Believes That We Are All Feminists Now’, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the admission of women into the Union, ran smoothly until Mrs Currie’s speech, which lasted longer than the time permitted for debaters.
Union rules dictate that speakers during debates may speak for a maximum of 12 minutes, after which they can request extra time. An exception is made for speakers who have been invited personally by the President, who are allowed to speak for a maximum of 30 minutes.
Hannah Dewhirst, a Mansfield student who was present at the debate, said, “It was evident Edwina Currie wasn’t quite ready to finish her speech as she ignored the first bell, told the secretary to shush when it rang a second time and when it was rung for a third time went round the desk, took the bell from the secretary and placed it on her own bench.”
However, Dewhirst insisted, “The incident was more amusing than insulting though. Most of the chamber was laughing.”
Currie returned the bell to the Secretary after her speech, and the incident was received with humour. Other speakers at the debate included Dame Tessa Jowell and Cindy Gallop, founder of IfWeRanTheWorld and MakeLoveNotPorn, who both spoke in Proposition. Opposition speakers included Laurie Penny and Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett.
Edwina Currie has been a controversial figure throughout her political career, best known for claiming that “good Christians” do not contract AIDs, among other inflammatory comments. She resigned from her post as Junior Health Minister in 1988 after claiming that most British eggs contained salmonella, a comment which earned her the nickname ‘Eggwina’.
She also featured in the 2011 edition of Strictly Come Dancing, and sung in a cover of Wham’s ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go Go’ with Declan Donnelly.
Dan Hosegood, a PPE student at Magdalen, told Cherwell, “It seems clear that time is called for Edwina; she curries favour no more. To be perfectly honest I’ve always thought she was a bit of a bell-end.”
Another Magdalen student, Graham Atkins, added, “The bell tolls no more thanks to her actions in the debating chamber.”