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Dr Julian Lewis will make his own decision for reasons he believes to be right. However, I do not think it is right to run away from debate, even if we are diametrically opposed to the views of others. The right thing is to debate and challenge the views of the opponent. If we are a democracy and we adhere to free speech we should be prepared to debate everyone.

In his letter of resignation, Dr Lewis wrote:

"Nothing which happens in Monday's debate can possibly offset the boost you are giving to a couple of scoundrels who can put up with anything except being ignored. It is sheer vanity on your part to imagine that any argument you deploy, or any vote you carry will succeed in causing them damage. They have been exposed and discredited time and again by people vastly more qualified than you in arenas hugely more suited to the task than an undergraduate talking-shop, however venerable."

This paragraph could so easily be said of the Tory party booted out in 1997 - sleaze being a cause - and of course we all know how honest the scoundrel free Labour Party is, don't we?

I am not a member of the BNP, but it is in the interests of free speech (provided it is not unlawful) that we hear it. Dr Lewis is a member of a parliamentary party that likes to quote the Magna Carta and the freedoms it bestowed. He does not appear to like free speech however, especially when it might lose his party votes.

I wonder why the Great and the Good mentioned above did not resign from the Oxford Union when the Lefties at Oxford refused to honour Maggie - surely Dr Lewis did?

Julian Lewis seems to think that democracy and free speech should only be extended to those whose views he does not find unacceptable. That's not democracy or free speech and it's not what the Conservative Party stands for. If he really thinks the BNP should be denied the opportunity to argue its case (as opposed to currying the PC lobby's favour)I suggest he finds another party to represent.

Furthermore, there is nothing more right wing than denying people the right to speak freely. Dr Lewis may care to ponder the inherent contradiction in his position.

The two speakers are wrong on almost every thing they have ever said or written. But it is only by allowing them to speak and then destroying their arguments that you really deal with them and negate their influence.

There are many eloquent and knowledgable speakers who could make very short work of the malign message these two men seek to spread (I hope that Evan Harris falls into this catagory) and the best way to combat them is to take them on and defeat them in detail.

Dr Lewis is unfortunately wrong in thinking that just because they have been shown up in the past people do not still believe their lies. As such all opportunities to expose them as frauds should be welcomed.

I'm undecided on this one.

The BNP website is Britain's most popular political site. Given that so many people are reading their stuff it might be best to start countering it?

I can't help worrying, however, that the Union's Forum helps to make their opinions more respectable/ mainstream. Neither Griffin or Irving are fools. Their opponents will need to be on good form to expose them. I certainly won't criticise Julian Lewis for taking his decision.

I'm looking forward to the best minds in the country humiliating these disgusting examples of humanity.

Julian Lewis should resign his membership of the Conservative Party next.

Nothing so nauseating or tiring as this type of political correctness.

Editor, "their opponents will need to be on good form to expose them" sounds to me like a lack of confidence that we've got the intellectual and political rigour to defeat their argument.

Call me a bluff old traditionalist, but I thought the essence of politics was debate about ideas (however nauseating some might be). Julian Lewis is just taking his bat and ball home instead of being up for the fight.

Like others I think Julian Lewis wrong and Evan Harris right,ugh! I've said it before on this blog and will again,how can we expect to defeat the BNP if we refuse to debate with them? Labours policy of ignoring them or trying to ban them has not worked but we can destroy their arguments by our own force of argument. It is the same with Hamas,Sinn Fein and other undesirables.
PS Irving is a joke,who should be easy to knock over.

I am not sure that being debated in the Union forum does make their mainstream or respectable.

The forum has been used for the debate of many issues in the past where there is clearly one side which is morally in the right and the other wrong. There have also been debates on matters of absolutely no significance what so ever.

The point is that, as you have pointed out, people are already hearing their message. If that is the case then every opportunity should be taken to make sure that their views are countered and the logical fallacies and inconsistencies are highlighted. This can only happen if a debate is allowed to take place.

I have a great deal of faith in the public and expect that the vast majority of them are able to understand the consequences of the sorts of views put forward by these two men. As such no one should be afraid to allow them to make fools of themselves.


I am writing, in my personal capacity and with great sadness, to resign my Life Membership of the Oxford Union after 37 years, in protest at your decision to offer the privilege of a platform to this country’s best-known Holocaust denier and also to the leader of the British National Party. As your President seemed surprised when I indicated my intention to him on Thursday, let me explain as clearly as I can why this is necessary.

No-one denies that even the most unpleasant people must be allowed to say what they like within the limits imposed by law. No-one denies that a private debating society is at liberty to invite anyone it selects, similarly within the law. Yet, it should equally be obvious that no-one has a right to such an invitation unless that society chooses to offer a platform. The right of free speech does not confer a right of access to privileged platforms from prestige organisations. So why is the Union choosing to offer one to David Irving and Nick Griffin?

During my visit for last week’s debate on terrorism, four reasons gradually seemed to emerge – two explicit and two implied. I set them out here in descending order of merit:

The first reason is the principle of free speech – as if either of these individuals has been prevented from publishing his views far and wide in books, pamphlets, papers and on the internet. The Union does not seem able to distinguish between the right to express one’s views, on the one hand, and access to a privileged platform, courtesy of a (hitherto) respectable organisation, on the other.

The second reason is the belief, reiterated by your President on BBC television, that their “awful and abhorrent” opinions will be “crushed and defeated” in debate on Monday. This is either laughably naïve or rather disingenuous. Mr Irving could not possibly be discredited more completely or convincingly than occurred in the Lipstadt trial and subsequent book (Telling Lies about Hitler) by Professor Richard Evans, and in Mr Justice Gray’s devastating verdict (easily accessible) at the end of that trial. In any case, my understanding of Monday’s debate is that it will not be about Holocaust denial or BNP doctrine per se, but about issues of free speech – in which case Luke’s televised excuse is simply misleading.

The third reason is an understandable, if morbid, curiosity to see this notorious duo in the flesh; whilst the fourth – and most discreditable – reason is to attract a blizzard of nationwide publicity for the Union itself and/or its current leading figures. As politicians often find out to their cost, however, it is always easy to generate media coverage if one is willing to behave sufficiently badly.

For Holocaust deniers and the BNP there may well be no such thing as bad publicity; but for most of the rest of us the opposite is true. Do you think for one moment that the national media would be in the least interested in this debate if Irving and Griffin were being offered a platform by a body with no status to confer nor reputation to lose?

Nothing which happens in Monday’s debate can possibly offset the boost you are giving to a couple of scoundrels who can put up with anything except being ignored. It is sheer vanity on your part to imagine that any argument you deploy, or any vote you carry will succeed in causing them damage. They have been exposed and discredited time and again by people vastly more qualified than you in arenas hugely more suited to the task than an undergraduate talking-shop, however venerable.

So far as I can see, the only good to have come from this self-indulgent behaviour is the fact that Muslim and Jewish students are working together to condemn the appalling message you have sent to their communities, both locally and nationally.

Yours sincerely,


Thank you Julian. It's very helpful to see the full letter.

Dr Lewis, even if I agreed with you, which I don't, your resignation from the Oxford Union has of itself given the BNP more oxygen of publicity. I can't help feeling that your argument is flawed and your action counter productive.

I also think that perhaps Dr Lewis is over egging the pudding as far as the 'privileged platform' argument goes.

According to their own website the Oxford Union debating society has in the recent past held debates on 'Oasis vs The Beatles' and 'Aliens'.

It seems that most of the debates - weighty or insignificant - pass off without the vast majority of the public ever being aware of them. As such it is only the protests that have served to highlight this particular debate and give it more significance than it deserves.

S**t! I'm just about to go to bed and I'm agreement with Dr. Harris. How will I sleep? It's first. And, hopefully, the last time this will happen!

S**t! I'm just about to go to bed and I'm in agreement with Dr. Harris. How will I sleep? It's a first. And, hopefully, the last time this will happen (agreeing with Dr. Death)!

Feeling very tired, so ignore my grammar/spelling.

Why do you think Griffin and Irving are going to this debate? They want the publicity.

When the BNP are in the news racist attacks rise.


They should not receive any oxygen of publicity.

Dr Lewis has done the principled thing.

He has shown solidarity with the British people that the BNP wants out of this country.

Sorry, Steve: I wish I could agree with you, but unfortunately they have wrongly been given maximum publicity at the moment, irrespective of what I do. As my letter states, they should never have been given it by the OUS in the first place. Kind regards, Julian L.

"The BNP website is Britain's most popular political site"

The website is probably the only place where anyone can find out anything about them. As a result, curious people have only their propaganda to judge them by. Far better to allow free speech and let them be judged on their arguments.

I certainly would criticise Julian Lewis for taking his decision - his comments are patronising and arrogant and limiting free speech to those you agree with is a dangerous path.

Umberella Man,

I think perhaps it is because they both have the arrogance to think that they are right and that if their message is allowed to be heard then the British people will flood to their cause.

I disagree. I think that every time they speak and their words are heard and read along with the counter arguments (as opposed to being allowed to exist unchallenged in books and on websites) then intelligent people - by which I mean almost everyone - recognise the idiocy of their beliefs and are prevented from being fooled into supporting them.

This is not to criticise Dr Lewis. He holds a slightly different view on the effects of publicity and I don't know how you would prove it one way or the other.

In the end then you come back to a basic position on freedom of speech which to my mind has to be absolute or is simply a meaningless soundbite.

It's also worth remembering that this is a debate about free speech, not about the beliefs of the speakers.

Dr Lewis, thank you for your courteous post. I think we may have to agree to differ on this one, however, I'm sure we are as one in our desire to defeat the BNP's arguments and, perhaps more importantly, get rid of this bloody awful government.
You have my full support in that quest. Regards. Steve Garner.

As a former Union Society President (albeit at a more northern and less august institution than Oxford), I can well remember the temptation that being a young undergrad in charge of a great debating institution can bring. It is, in my opinion, quite wrong of the OUS to be providing these speakers with a platform, for the following reasons.

1. The event is a Forum on Free Speech. Did you know that? I bet you almost certainly didn't and that's because the purpose of the event has become totally lost in this controversy, which the President knew full well would be generated when the invitations were issued. This is not a debate, but a forum, (ie a symposium) about the concept of free speech NOT the substance of either Mr Griffin's, or Mr Irving's stated beliefs. This is not an opportunity to "expose" their views, rather a place to talk about whether they should be able to espouse them.

2. This leads me onto my next point. Julian Lewis correctly states (above):
"They have been exposed and discredited time and again by people vastly more qualified than you in arenas hugely more suited to the task than an undergraduate talking-shop, however venerable."
Does the President of the OUS think that his members are really going to be able to do anywhere near the kind of demolition job that Gray J did in the High Court, or Deborah Lipstadt did in her book "Denying the Holocaust"? These are doubtless talented young people, but honestly they are no match for Griffin or Irving, who have faced far tougher audiences.

3. The event is frankly offensive, and while the whole purpose of free speech is indeed to allow people the right to offend (you don't need a right to say things everyone else agrees with), it is not something that a responsible institution should allow to happen lightly. This is, in my view, something of a vanity exercise for those in charge of the OUS. It's got them on the news (they knew it would), and it'll make some kind of tawdry history. This is probably why they are doing it, as if it was really about the issues, they would have a debate with an highly offensive motion (eg This house would deny the holocaust happened) which they could throw out. They can't do that, because it would make them a laughing stock, so this nonsensical forum is the next big thing.

I'm sure others will think this is still "political correctness gone mad", but it isn't, it's good old fashioned taste and decency. Is it really a venerable way to honour the memories of those who perished in the concentration camps of Europe?

I disagree with Dr Lewis, Kicking up a fuss over Griffin, and Irvings attendance only gives more media attention than they already get. and his comments about the society and their chances of exposing the arguments put forth are just arrogant and demeaning.
In a debate on free speech I think that both Griffin and Irving have a unique perspective to speak from. We may disagree with their views, but refusing to confront them does not make their views disappear.

All mainstream parties realised after last years local elections the necessity to actually fight the BNP rather than ignoring them, I certainly did. unfortunately they are a disturbing force in our democracy and should be fought tooth and nail to make sure that they can't make any more serious gains. Ignoring them won't do that!

Freedom of speech is unequivocal, all must be heard.

Dr Lewis, I was able to spend some time a few General Elections ago campaigning for you when Peter Viggers allowed me time off :-) although I'm sure you don't recall me. I would do so again without a doubt. You are a man of integrity and honour and will bring gravitas to our next Cabinet.

However I must disagree with you today. When we banned the voice of that terrorist Adams from our television screens the BBC got round it by dubbing his pictures (and therefore also making him sound coherent and rational). These awful individuals will always find sockpuppets if they are not allowed to speak for themselves.

I support your personal decision to resign on a principle but this is the wrong one to pick. We only defeat extremists (on both sides) with debate.

If I had the choice then the world would not suffer clinical nutcases such as Irving, Griffin, Chavez, Castro, Mugabe, Galloway etc but they all regrettably deserve equal rights to air their views - however ridiculous they might be.

Otherwise we slip further down the PC route into a 1984 country run by the Thought-Police.

I am quite sure that the low paid, beleaguered working class people living on council estates who are likely to vote BNP (or other "far right" groups) couldn't really care less what goes on at Oxford University. It's an alien world to them.

Thank you Steve (2157) and Geoff (2253) for showing that bloggers can disagree respectfully with others.


The right of free speech does not confer a right of access to privileged platforms from prestige organisations.

I totally agree with Julian Lewis on this.

So much for OUSU's "no platform" policy!

It looks like some People are upset about and honest man resigning his memebership because the Oxford union has invited the leader of BNP to say a few words.

Ofcourse He is right to resign. What do you think we should do? Elect Griffin as our Prime Minister? He may be better than Brown but that does not mean we need people like Griffin in politics.

in the name of "Freedom of Speech" why can't you challenge the Muslims in this Country? that is because you know the consequences of it.

There is no place for people who preach hatred and there is no place for racism. In the same way there is no place for people who promote terrorism.

It is common sense that we should ignore parties like the BNP or any other party which promotes racism.

Congratulations Dr.Julian Lewis

Richard Tyndall @ 21.09 wrote, "The two speakers are wrong on almost every thing they have ever said or written. But it is only by allowing them to speak and then destroying their arguments that you really deal with them and negate their influence.

I am totally supportive of Richard's comments here and many of his subsequent postings. Let's have their insidious views made public, deal with them and identify their supporters.

Julian is entitled to make his own decision. It's a personal choice. However, I'm curious as to why he didn't resign years ago as I can think of several previous speakers at the Oxford Union who are at least as morally reprehensible as Griffin and Irving.

I agree that freedom of speech is essentially indivisible and that everyone must be able to state their views within the law. Contrary to some of the postings above, it seems to me that Dr Lewis is quite clear about that. He says, "No-one denies that even the most unpleasant people must be allowed to say what they like within the limits imposed by law."

It seems to me that most of the posters above fail to consider whether or not the Oxford Union were right to invite these two speakers. If my church were to invite these two to speak, I would resign membership of my church immediately. If my local Conservative Association were to give these two a platform, I would not vote for the Conservative candidate unless he clearly disowned the actions of the Association (I couldn't resign from the Association as I am not a member). Yes, we should be prepared to debate with these people but that does NOT mean we should offer them a platform. I don't want to silence them but I would be unhappy if any organisation to which I belong invited them to speak. And I agree wholeheartedly with James Norman about the motivations of those involved. Having a debate on freedom of speech does NOT require invitations to people with repellent views.

On that basis, I am with Dr Lewis. I would very definitely be against him if he was arguing for an outright ban on these individuals but he is not. He is simply expressing his own unhappiness with the actions of the Oxford Union.

And by the way, I am unclear as to why Dontmakemelaugh thinks Dr Lewis should have responded to the refusal of Oxford Dons to give Margaret Thatcher an honorary degree by resigning from a STUDENT debating society.

Patrick 2302
So by the same token do we ignore Muslims and any other religion or group which promotes terrorism, and racism and homophobia and sexism? Should we not deny these people platforms on which to speak as well?

The debate, which Dr Lewis is keen to have barred, will, to some of us that have not been around to hear the likes of Nick Griffin stamped on by more worthy intellects, be of interest. I did hear him some months ago on BBC Radio 5 Live (it made a change from having to listen to the deluded dangerous Simon Hughes). Much to the chagrin of the BBC (they must have realised they had made a mistake in inviting him - most of the phonin agreed with him). Their inquisitor was unable to stamp on Griffin and came off second best. It will be of interest to see if the leader of the BNP agrees with Irving; having heard the broadcast I would think it doubtful, we shall see, but if Dr Lewis had his way we would never know, would we?

There was much in the broadcast that ordinary conservatives would agree with and the lib/Dims with Griffiths desire to pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq. Those that believe that multiculturalism and immigration contained dangers to Britain would find solace. I thought Griffin was more of a national culturalist than a racist and apparently legal immigrants of whatever race were in no danger of being deported - only illegals. I did like Griffiths knowledge of Islam (and its slight drawbacks) – unlike the deficient knowledge of most of our politicians.

How lucky we are not to have Dr Lewis in charge of free speech because now we will be better able to judge for ourselves because we might better be able to separate truth from innuendo and smears.
I do not expect to vote BNP at the next election (I do not believe that we should withdraw the Army). However, should I believe that the Tories under Cameron are not to be trusted and the party full of PC politicians like Dr Lewis wishing to curb free speech and be governed by Brussels I might be tempted to raise two fingers.
Dr Lewis you are wrong and there are no excuses for banning those that do not break the law.

I have never been invited to speak at the Oxford Union. Does that mean I have been denied freedom of speech? Or does it mean that access to the platform is not about allowing someone "freedom of speech"?

One would probably not invite Ken Livingstone to address the Cornerstone Group and equally I doubt that Lord Tebbit is high up the list of potential guest speakers for the next party conference of Respect.

However this is a debating society. At my school the Hon President of the Politics Society was Harold Wilson and we hosted speeches across the spectrum from Mowlam to Enoch Powell.

As Secretary I greeted, dined with and gave the formal vote of thanks to people whose politics and views nauseated me. If I were still in that position I would do so again for any politician because a debating society is a forum to air ideas for discussion.

These people were invited to the OU because they have a strong point of view and also have a national profile. Tim R-P and I don't (sorry Tim) have the same profile. However, one of the many things I love about British democracy is that we are allowed to drop a soapbox on Speakers' Corner and make idiots of ourselves.

If the right of free speech is ever taken away then our country dies.

Most of the posts on here are absolutely disgusting. I haven't got time to discuss all of this, but trust me, I'm right and all of you have been discredited before.

This is a private website and the moderator should sweep all of the comments, except this one, underneath the carpet.

So there.


Dr Lewis
Well done!

Jonathan Hoffman

Interesting that everyone so far is ignoring the Fib Dems roll in this. If Even Harris did not ofer to sit opposite them there would be no debate!

Their party goes beyond being apologists for the Nazis. The FIb Dems have a history of "Supporting" the BNP . Theirs is the only party that suspends members until the hullabaloo dies down.

No point in telling Evan Harris to be ashamed of himself then!

Mark Fulford -So much for OUSU's "no platform" policy!

One that you agree with, Mark?

I have no time for Griffin and Irving who, from being an historical researcher of some repute, seems to have descended into lunacy.

That does not mean, however, that in a free society their views should be suppressed.

Griffin is the head of what is now England's premier minor party, invariably eclipsing UKIP in elections. His views command the support of a significant minority and should be heard.

If I were Griffin I would be less happy about appearing on a platform with Irving, whose ridiculous view of the Nazi Holocaust has been chiefly sustained by the exaggerated claims made by some of his opponents.

And when the usual PC suspects start to waffle about Muslim opposition to this event it should be remembered that Irving's Holocaust-denial books are top best-sellers in the Muslim world - right up there with Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.

Peter Harrison - If my local Conservative Association were to give these two a platform, I would not vote for the Conservative candidate unless he clearly disowned the actions of the Association (I couldn't resign from the Association as I am not a member)

Mmmm. Keep taking the pills Peter. Why don't you sign up quickly just in case. We wouldn't want to be deprived of the stunning headlines your resignation would cause in the unlikely event that Little Snoring Tories invite Dvid Irving to a ladies' coffee morning.

The BNP should be treated no differently from any other political party in that they should be allowed to distribute leaflets, stand for election, participate in election debates and have a party political broadcast etc. This is freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

What we do not need to do is to go out of our way to give these people opportunities to speak. The Oxford Union did not have to invite the BNP or Dr Irving to speak, they specifically went out of their way to invite them, one is left wondering why.

I'm in a quandary. I'm all for free speech and all for, actually, giving obnoxious viewpoints a platform in order to discredit them. That is how a democracy functions. As such I think a debate involving and discrediting the BNP is "a good thing" and developing ways of undermining their message is something the Union should be doing.

That said, I wonder why Irving is there. He is an obnoxious, unpleasant non-entity and, frankly, the Union ought to be able to do better. As Julian Lewis says - just read the libel judgment. So, I'm all for it being allowed to go ahead, all for supporting the Union in debating the "far left"(for that is what the BNP is) but rather ambivalent as regards Irving. The President would have a much stronger case if he wasn't there.

I bow down before the glittering beauty of Dr Lewis's finely honed principles, so elegantly displayed here.

How wonderful that he can show the rest of us poor morally stunted citizens how to wash our hands of a fight.

If and when free speech dies in this Country it will be short sighted gestures like this that will have helped cause it.

Just for the avoidance of doubt I hope both of these knuckle-dragging idiots get their backsides kicked at the debate, but lets see them humiliated by our best debaters.

How about it Dr Lewis? Not to late to get your shoulder to the wheel....


I dont see the problem here with Nick Griffin being invited to this event. We need to stop cowering from opposition and instead stand up strong and say that the BNP can have their say, but that they are wrong and to challenge these assertions by the far left (as has been pointed out here) in debate.

James Maskell. Spot on. they should be invited and the veracity and quality of their arguments determine their fate.

English 'Patriot'.

If the implication you are making is the one I think then perhaps you should state it clearly so everyone can see the sort of person you are.

Whilst I may argue on the side of free speech in this debate that is no reason to attack others because you think you know something of their characters because of their names.

Has anyone noticed that "English Patriot" would be better named "Anti-Semetic Scumbag"?

To those who are disassociating themselves from the Oxford Union I ask this: Why didn't you resign when the repulsive mass murderer Gerry Adams was invited to speak?

Has anyone noticed that "English Patriot" would be better named "Anti-Semitic Scumbag"?

To those who are disassociating themselves from the Oxford Union I ask this: Why didn't you resign when the repulsive mass murderer Gerry Adams was invited to speak?

I think Dr Lewis makes a key point in his letter that there is a difference between the right to free speech and being given access to a platform to express those views.

Clearly not being invited to take part in a debate by the Oxford Union would in no possible sense infringe the freedom of speech of the individuals concerned.

All extremists require the oxygen of publicity to get across their dangerously warped political views, regrettably the Oxford Union is providing Nick Griffin and David Irving with exactly that.

A significant number of bloggers are calling for us to debate with groups such as the BNP and David Irvine, however, we seek to run away from debating with Hizb Ut Tahrir Britain.

This particular group, no matter how grotesque you may find their opinion, should be debated with. Why can the Leader of our party debate with Hizb Ut Tahrir Britain officials, as we would want our representatives to listen and debate with the ideas of the British National Party, and David Irvine?

Our party want to ban the ideas of Hizb Ut Tahrir Britain, but not those of the BNP, who want to eliminate people of every single ethnic or religious affiliation, especially people from LGBT communities.
Why should we silence the voices that confront the policies of this country in the Muslim world. Let us debate with Hizb Ut Tahrir Britain, as we would challenge the deplorable opinions of the BNP.

Those who have views which a large number of people consider unacceptable are likely to encounter some restrictions on their speaking opportunities and as a result are likely to have a different insight into the free speech issue.

Unfortunately, a debate on free speech without such people on the platform would be fairly one-sided and pointless.

Many good points made above. Whether it was right or not to invite Griffin and Irving, the fact is that they have been invited and this is widely known.

What to do now? It seems to me that any attempt to exclude them now will be counterproductive. One point that no one seems to have made yet: what messsage does it send to the general public, particularly floating voters, if mainstream politicians cancel an arranged debate with the likes of Griffin? Some might suspect that it shows a singular lack of self confidence in democracy etc if we avoid debate with them. What are we afraid of? That they have good arguments? Surely not.

The other point (already made by others)about a last minute cancellation is that it will tend to create a myth of "free speech martyrs". This will be manna from heaven for Griffin, for exploiting grievance and resentment is his stock in trade.

Dr Julian Lewis is right to resign from the Oxford Union. He is not arguing against free speech, just extending his right not to be associated with an organisation that invites Griffin and Irving to speak. The invitation to speak gives legitimacy to their obnoxious views. If I was an Oxford graduate, I would also resign.

To those here who stand up for Irving, read his books that are so sympathetic to the Nazis and criticise the allies. His close associate "Lady" Renouf is an active participant in the activities of the British People's Party. The BPP makes the BNP look moderate. Griffin, IIRC, has been associated with Institute for Historical Review, the leading Holocaust denial publisher.

Conservatives must actively campaign against the National Socialists in our country. Too many of the posters here would give them publicity via a platform at one of our most prestigious educational institutions.

"He is not arguing against free speech, just extending his right not to be associated with an organisation that invites Griffin and Irving to speak."

LOL. But he is obviously happy to remain associated with an electoral system that offers them a platform.

Surely he should resign as an MP too or do principles stop when self-interest is threatened?

That is rubbish Chad! Which party do you support these days? You seem to have given up on the UKIP. Where have your principles gone?

As regards the "they have free speech but that doesn't mean they need a platform" argument, if we, like the Oxford Union, believe in the power and importance of free speech and open debate then we should support the involvement in that debate of all viewpoints - including those which are odious. If you believe in the power of such free debate than you have to believe that the true views will out.

If the Union censors who it gives a platform to then it cannot truly be said to be a bastion of free speech of a forum for free and frank debate and discussion. If it aspires to be that, then it must offer its platform to all shades of view.

James Forsyth at Coffee House: "The Oxford Union’s decision to invite David Irving and Nick Griffin to speak confuses the right to free speech with a duty to offer people a platform. Nick Griffin is, within the bounds of the law, free to sound off in his usual obnoxious way. But that freedom doesn’t oblige anyone to ask Griffin to come and speak to them. Equally, artists were free to draw the Muhammad cartoons but newspapers weren’t obliged to reprint them." More here.

As Evelyn Beatrice Hall said "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"

Clearly Julian Lewis does not believe this. Let Mr Griffon and Mr Irvine make their points, get cut down and show themselves up in true free speech style. Allowing people to make fools of themselves in public is usually the best way of showing them up

Surely, if the expressed views are likely to repel voters, then we should be giving people as large a platform as possible to hang themselves from?

Otherwise it looks like you really fear the these views may gain support if given enough coverage. This is exactly the kind of 'underdog' approach these groups thrive on.

I do wonder whether the Oxford Union may have wittingly or unwittingly done the BNP much harm by making Griffin share a platform with a completely discredited nutter like David Irving.Hopefully the two of them will offer each other mutual support and poison each others arguments.

I rather suspect the Union has an inflated view of its own self importance if they think this debate will enable them to crush the arguments of the far right and discredit their case. After all David Irving doesn't think that the fact that every respected historian totally rejects his holocaust denial arguments discredits him in any way. Nick Griffin doesn't let the fact that his party have never had a single MP elected and won nothing more than a handful of council seats prevent him from repeating his vile arguments.

I'm afraid the Union in inviting these notorious speakers to take part in this debate are simply conveying some form of legitimacy on Nazi sympathisers morally repugnant views. The law rightly permits free speech what it doesn't mean is reputable organisations should allow themselves to be used to promote extreme points of view.

You normally talk a lot of sense but that post contradicts itself, Graham. Either the Union has an inflated view of its own importance and is unimportant (thus who it invites doesn't matter) or it is important and thus can "lend legitimacy".

I repeat my point - if the Union is to truly stand for free speech and the power of debate in a free society then it has to offer its platform of scrutiny to all shades of opinion, however nasty.

When you are the BNP or a complete lunatic like David Irving any platform you can get even if it is only a student debating society is going to be seen as an opportunity, but the Union are deluding themselves if they think by inviting these people they are going to harm or discredit them.

Julian Lewis does not believe in free speech for some people. Yet he is a Conservative MP. I wonder who else he feels should not be allowed to speak in Oxford, at what is after all only a student debating society. If Enoch Powell were alive would he be disapproved of also? What about Churchill in the days of Neville Chamberlain and Munich? Churchill was a bit of a war monger, and not very popular then as I recall. It would be nice if this conservative MP would give us a list of those he feels are suitable to have freedom of speech.

The Oxford Union Debating Society has long since been superseded in both relevance and quality of debate by a new invention called the Interweb.

Irving and Griffin play Oxford remind me of the top of the bill act in a rather jaded end of the pier show at some long since forgotten resort desperately trying to rekindle old glory.

Think Cannon and Ball or the Chuckle Brothers play Paignton.

If the debating society is so desperate maybe it should try to appear somewhat less so. Booking ex-Cambridge graduates, such as Griffin, really is scraping it.

"Nick Griffin doesn't let the fact that his party have never had a single MP elected and won nothing more than a handful of council seats prevent him from repeating his vile arguments".

I believe it was not before the early 1900's that Labour had a single MP in Parliament - so what does that prove in relation to the BNP?
I have not logged on to the BNP website for some years and have never voted for the party so I am keen to know what these "vile" arguments are, but Dr Lewis would like to prevent me knowing. Why? What has to fear?
It is possible that in just the same way that Labour has changed, dropped Clause 4 and so got elected, the Tories changed under Cameron and stopped being "nasty" that the BNP formerly known as the National Front has also changed - who knows? One thing is certain if Dr Lewis has his way we will never know. On BBC today a commenter stated that Dr Lewis was acting in a fascist way in attempting to curtail the free speech of a lawful political party - food for thought.

It has been a good time lately for the pariahs Enoch Powell and Ian Smith; they are no being spoken of as being right in their opinions which were castigated at the time. I would not like to hear in years to come that the BNP were held to be right in its analysis of what could happen to Britain. That is why it is important that we be allowed access to lawful free speech. We do not need the Nannie State in the form of Dr Lewis telling us what lawful parties we can listen to - we are quite capable of making up our own minds. The proposed censorship of Dr Lewis is anti democratic.

Should read: the proposed censorship BY Dr Lewis is undemocratic - I do not wish to see Dr Lewis banned from free (lawful) speech.

The invitation to speak gives legitimacy to their obnoxious views. If I was an Oxford graduate, I would also resign.

TFA Tory, are you seriously suggesting that The Freedom Association, of which I am a member, would support the withdrawal of the right to free speech.

Perhaps you would like to explain to us by what right you claim to represent TFA?

I see that none of the "Ban Them!" brigade has been able to answer my question: why resign over the invitation to Griffin and Irving if you didn't resign over the invitation to Gerry Adams?

The first two are obnoxious hate mongerers who haven't killed anyone. The latter is the head of a terrorist organisation responsible for the politically-motivated murders of hundreds of innocent British citizens.

On one level, who cares whether or not some student society invites Nick Griffin or David Irving to address it? Least of all when the grown-up, permanently resident, working, tax-paying City of Oxford is politically one of the most interesting places in Britain today.

Yet where is the coverage of the fact that no Tory Councillor has been returned there, whether at City or at County level, for a good many years now, giving the lie to the alleged continuing existence of the Tory bogeyman without which there is no point to the Labour Party? (Are there still any Tory Councillors in Cambridge, either? There certainly isn’t a Tory MP there these days.)

Where is the coverage of the rise of the Green Party in Oxford’s middle-class wards, a clear indication that the Guardian Tendency is detachable from the Labour coalition if given any alternative, and is by no means necessarily susceptible to the charms of the Lib Dems (again, if given an alternative)?

Where is the coverage of the rise, on Oxford’s council estates, of the Independent Working Class Association, which has about as many councillors nationwide as the two Respect factions put together, yet of which almost no one has ever heard? And where is the coverage of the fraught relationship between Oxford’s Greens and the IWCA, a microcosm with profound implications for the impending, not to say ongoing, realignment of the British Left?

Still, since apparently we must treat the Oxford Union as an institution of earth-shattering importance both absolutely and compared to the above trivialities, one trusts that those who have clamoured to keep out Griffin and Irving will react in the same way to any invitation to, say, those who lied this country into war. Or the utterly unrepentant old Stalinists, Trotskyists and Mugabe-worshippers in New Labour and the Euston Manifesto Group. Or the utterly unrepentant old bag men of apartheid South Africa, Ian Smith’s Rhodesia and Pinochet’s Chile in the Henry Jackson Society and throughout the currently dominant generation of Tories. Or those who treasonably discharge their parliamentary duties under the day-to-day direction of the American neoconservative junta. Or the supporters of militant Islam in Kosovo, in Chechnya, in Turkey, in Pakistan, previously in Bosnia and Afghanistan, effectively in Iraq, and putatively in Syria. Or the cheerleaders for Nazism in Bosnia, Kosovo, Denmark, Flanders, and among the Russians let into Israel as a result of the Law of Return. To name but a few.

What did you all make of the News 24 coverage on it last night? They interviewed a bunch of students, some of them were named, who came out with some strange arguments for what I thought were some of the brightest students the country has.

The Oxford Union debate only makes sense if seen in context. Basically, after a huge amount of provocation, the university debating societies have had enough of being told that they can't invite Griffin. Here is some background:

Three of the main university debating societies (Oxford, cambridge and St Andrews) have been inviting Nick Griffin for years, because they recon that he is is a political force in the country. But they also invite and listen to the most prominent left wingers (all the time).
However, every time griffin is invited the police tell the debating societies that the cannot guarantee the safety of the students from leftwing positive activists, which is something that they never say about anything else, and the university hierarchy always put huge pressure on the debating societies to cancel.
In St Andrews three years ago, the principal was so petrified of the university looking "right wing" that he barred the debating union from a chamber that they have been using for 200 years, for the griffin debate. Left wing activists sent e-mails to student union officers threatening to harm students if the debate went ahead. Eventually, because the police refused to guarantee student safety(no doubt because they do not want to been seen as "protecting griffin" in front of this labour government even if it means allowing the protesters to break several laws - trespass, verbal assault, breach of the peace, attempted ABH ... ), the debate was cancelled and instead the presidents of Oxford, Cambridge and St Andrews debating society held a new debate on the day the griffin debate was due. This was in St Andrews in the student union (and not the debating chamber, Lower Parliament Hall, which was still barred to them even though griffin was not going to be there). They lined up against various personalities and thrashed them by gaining almost all the votes.
Unlike the Oxford debating society, in St Andrews all students are automatically members at no cost and so it can be used to gage general student sentiment on the subject.
The running battle between the debating societies and the left wing activists had already been going on for several years by this point. Griffin had had to cancel numerous invitations to the oxford and cambridge unions for similar reasons. And in the last three years nothing has changed. It is just that this time one of the debating presidents has had enough of being told what to do by violent activists, and held the debate anyway, regardless of the pressure and danger to students from left wing activists.

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