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Oxford Union holds ‘debate’ with reality star Gemma Collins… but it turns into Sainsbury’s advert

‘What a sell-out’: Students hit back after Oxford Union holds a ‘debate’ with reality TV star Gemma Collins… but it turns into advert for Sainsbury’s

  • Oxford University hosted debate on Christmas food with ‘secret celebrity guest’ 
  • Students were shocked to find TV star Gemma Collins in their union chamber
  • However the debate turned out to be part of a Sainsbury’s advertising campaign
  • The Union has now been accused of ‘selling out’ and ‘hitting embarrassing low’


As the world’s most prestigious debating society, the Oxford Union has hosted giants of politics, literature and science for almost 200 years.

So when a debate on the topic of Christmas food with a ‘secret celebrity guest’ was promoted, excitement built across the university’s campus.

Now, however, students have accused the Union of ‘selling out’ and ‘hitting an embarrassing low’ after discovering that Monday’s debate was in fact part of a Sainsbury’s advertising campaign with reality TV star Gemma Collins.

Attendees turned up for a discussion on whether ‘Christmas food should only feature traditional dishes and flavours’. But instead they found Miss Collins and cameras recording the proceedings.

Oxford students have accused the Union of ‘selling out’ after discovering that Monday’s debate was in fact part of a Sainsbury’s advertising campaign with reality TV star Gemma Collins

During the ‘fake’ debate, the former The Only Way Is Essex (Towie) star, known as ‘The GC’, is said to have made a speech in opposition repeatedly referencing ‘research by Sainsbury’s’ and the store’s ‘lovely’ food, before attendees were told to vote in her favour. She was up against European Debate Championship quarter-finalist Samuel Scheuer.

Addressing her rival, Miss Collins said: ‘You put the most amazing points forward. I can’t say I completely agree… but you was fabulous, honey.’

The Union teamed up with Sainsbury’s to promote its unusual, festive food range, which includes pigs in blankets sushi and sage and onion stuffing mayonnaise.

But after attending the 45-minute debate, one student said many were shocked to have become ‘unwitting extras’ in a supermarket PR campaign.

Attendees turned up for a discussion on whether 'Christmas food should only feature traditional dishes and flavours'. But instead they found Miss Collins and cameras recording the proceedings

Attendees turned up for a discussion on whether ‘Christmas food should only feature traditional dishes and flavours’. But instead they found Miss Collins and cameras recording the proceedings

The Oxford Union was founded in 1823 and previous speakers include Winston Churchill, Richard Nixon and Professor Stephen Hawking

The Oxford Union was founded in 1823 and previous speakers include Winston Churchill, Richard Nixon and Professor Stephen Hawking

The attendee, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘What does this say about the state of the Union today? We expect high quality debates.

‘We did not pay membership to be extras in an advert. It’s quite embarrassing that the Union is now hosting fake debates for adverts for Sainsbury’s.’

When advertised on the Union’s Facebook page, the event was described as a ‘debate hosted in partnership with Sainsbury’s’ and members were told filming would take place. But those attending via word-of-mouth were said to be unaware.

The Oxford Union said it was intended to be a ‘lively and light-hearted event before Christmas’.

And Sainsbury’s said: ‘In partnership with the Oxford Union, the event was clearly communicated to all attendees beforehand and standard protocol was followed.’

The Oxford Union was founded in 1823 and previous speakers include Winston Churchill, Richard Nixon and Professor Stephen Hawking.

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