MP quits Oxford debaters over invitation to Holocaust denier

By JONNY PAUL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
November 26, 2007 02:11
1 minute read.

 
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LONDON - A member of parliament has resigned from the Oxford University Union in protest over its decision to invite Holocaust denier David Irving and leader of the ultra-conservative British National Party Nick Griffin take part in a debate on Monday. Shadow defense minister and Conservative Party MP Dr. Julian Lewis resigned, saying the students should be "ashamed." In a letter to the union, Lewis said the right to free speech should not guarantee access to privileged platforms and he was resigning his life membership "with great sadness." "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," the MP, who studied at Oxford's Balliol and St. Antony's colleges, said. "They [Irving and Griffin] 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," Lewis added. Irving, who served part of a prison sentence for denying the Holocaust, and Griffin - who was charged with and cleared of inciting racial hatred - were invited to speak by the debate society, which claimed it was important to give all views a platform. The invitation was opposed by the Oxford Student Union as well as the university's Muslim and Jewish societies. On Sunday, Trevor Phillips, chair of the Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, slammed the decision to invite the pair and has asked for the union to "think again." "I think it is an absolute disgrace," he told the BBC on Sunday. "This is not a question of freedom of speech. This is a juvenile provocation," he said. The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) said it was planning to bus in students from across the country to take part in a peaceful demonstration outside the debating chamber on Monday. BNP spokesman Simon Darby described the expected protests as "very misguided." "This event is a big breakthrough for our party to spread its message in democratic surroundings. It is ironic you have got people shouting 'fascism' while campaigning in the face of the process of democracy," he said.

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