The McWhirter Conference, Oxford 2019

'Who Should Set the Limits of Free Speech?


The 2019 McWhirter Conference, Oxford at Trinity College, Oxford, Took place on Tuesday 12th and Wednesday 13th March:

Inspiring young people to debate topical issues and to think about their future role in society.


With previous speakers including Baroness Chakrabarti, Sir Richard Dearlove and Sir Roger Bannister, the McWhirter Conference provides a unique, and sometimes life-changing, educational opportunity for bright sixth formers from both state and independent schools.  Small syndicate groups follow each of the four talks and the Conference culminates in a ‘Question Time’ plenary session.

The McWhirter Foundation and its supporters host the Conference at Trinity College Oxford, with no cost to those attending. The conference encourages students to think about their own role in society and to think about how they might get involved in shaping Britain's future. Since 1975, more than 3,000 sixth formers have attended a McWhirter Conference.

Speakers at the 2019 Conference


Adrian Hilton is a political theologian, educationalist and commentator on politics, religion, culture and the arts. A twice-graduate of Oxford, he is a former parliamentary candidate and policy advisor to ministers and shadow ministers. He often shared political platforms with Norris McWhirter, and lectures in the UK and US on themes of liberty. He is the author of a recent book on education reform: Academies and Free Schools in England: a History and Philosophy of the Gove Act (Routledge, 2018), and is Chairman of the Academic Council of the Margaret Thatcher Centre. He is also a Council member of The Freedom Association. In addition, he holds a Guinness World Record; indeed, he is one of the few who knew Norris in both his political and Guinness Book of Records spheres of expertise.

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After Dinner Speaker

Keith Craig was born in Scotland, graduated from Oxford and served with the British Army as an infantry officer before working as a war correspondent in Africa with The Times.  He then joined the Swire Group as a commercial manager in Hong Kong and Manila.  In the early 1990s he worked with the Foreign & Commonwealth in London, New York and Bosnia, where he was Political Adviser to Commander UN Forces during the civil war.  In 1995 he moved back to Asia as a stockbroker, working in the Philippines and Hong Kong.  He returned to London in 2000 and joined Hakluyt & Company, a strategic intelligence firm, where he became CEO in 2006, a post he held until 2016. He subsequently founded Westbury Partners, providing personal advice and mentoring for senior executives. He is also chairman of Rubicon Fund Management, and a non-executive director of Oxford Nanoimaging and Schroders Asia Pacific Fund. He is a member of the board of the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, and of the international advisory board of Cancer Research UK.  He is married with two teenage children.

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Tom Harwood is a journalist, commentator, and digital media producer. He predominantly works as a reporter for Guido Fawkes. He often appears on radio and television, where he offers a valuable insight into youth issues and the future of the conservative movement. He has appeared or been published in virtually every mainstream media outlet, from the BBC, Sky and CNN on television, to The Guardian, Sunday Times, BuzzFeed, The Morning Star, The Jewish Chronicle and PinkNews in print. He is recognised for his viral student and youth campaigns, notably leading the national student wing of the Vote Leave campaign, managing a network of student groups in over 50 Universities and colleges across the United Kingdom. He is also former president of Durham University’s oldest and largest society, the Durham Union. He is regularly invited to speak at universities around the country, including Cambridge, Durham, York, Manchester, London South Bank, Newcastle, UCL, Warwick, and the London School of Economics.


Peter Tatchell has campaigned for human rights and LGBT freedom for over 50 years. His inspirations are Mahatma Gandhi, Sylvia Pankurst and Martin Luther King. 

He was the defeated Labour candidate in the 1983 Bermondsey by-election – the dirtiest, most violent election in Britain for 100 years. He twice attempted a citizen’s arrest on Robert Mugabe and was beaten up by neo-Nazis in Moscow. 

He has long championed free speech, including the free speech of those with whom he disagrees. He is Director of the human rights campaign group, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

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Conference Chair

Sharon is a contrarian and creative thinker, with an entrepreneurial spirit. She has spent much of her working life in the City of London, managing investment funds. She has worked for some of the leading financial institutions, such as Clerical Medical, HSBC Asset Management, Fidelity, andBessemer Trust - the largest and most prestigious wealth management company in the US, managing many well known family estates. She was a Partner at TT International, once one of the largest hedge fund groups in London.   She has held senior management positions, where she specialised in the Japanese and Far Eastern markets, and advised on global asset allocation. Sharon now uses her investment skills as an angel investor. She graduated from Exeter Universitywith an MA in Finance and Investment, during which she completed a dissertation on the UK Commercial Property sector. Sharon speaks French and German, a little Dutch and Japanese. Her hobbies include property development, skiing, singing, ballet and gardening. 

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Dr Robert Simpson completed his graduate studies at the University of Oxford (2009-13) and is now a Lecturer in Philosophy at University College London. Robert was previously a Lecturer at Monash University (2013-17) and a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Law and Philosophy Program at the University of Chicago (2015). His main research interests are in social and political philosophy, mostly relating to free speech and liberalism. 

Syndicate leaders

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