Founded in 1823 at a time when the ree exchange o ideas was a notion oreign to the restrictive university authorities,the Oxord Union is steeped in history. Early on it became the only place in Oxord or students to discuss political topics and controversial issues reely. W E Gladstone, later one o Britain’s greatest Prime Ministers, was a leading gure in the Union’s early development. To this day it continues to work on its ounding principles o ree speechand open debate, and it is still run by its student members.
Te Union has an illustrious collection o alumni. Fiveormer British Prime Ministers have been ocers o the Union: Gladstone, Salisbury, Asquith, Macmillanand Heath, as well as oreign political leaders includingBenazir Bhutto, ormer President o Pakistan andSolomon Bandaranaike, ormer Prime Minister o SriLanka. Numerous cabinet ministers across the politicalspectrum have held positions in the Union, includingBoris Johnson, ony Benn, Michael Foot, MichaelHeseltine, Jonathan Aitken, Ann Widdecombe, EdwinaCurrie and William Hague, to name but a ew. UnionFigures have also gone on to succeed in the worlds o literature and broadcasting, as demonstrated by DennisPotter, Robin Day, Brian Walden and Jerey Archerand ariq Ali.
© Bill Cross