Police could be called in to maintain order at a student debate after anti-fascists vowed to stop two BNP politicians joining it.
Unite Against Fascism (UAF) said Durham Union Society’s decision to invite the BNP to a multiculturalism debate was disgraceful. The group wants the meeting cancelled or the invitations withdrawn, and is planning demonstrations outside the Debating Chamber, on the Palace Green, Durham City.
Simon Assas, from UAF, said: “It defies belief. It is a huge error of judgement and they should think about their university’s reputation. It is outrageous.”
Inspector Paul Anderson said Durham Police would speak to event organisers before deciding whether officers were needed outside the debate or whether they would advise it be abandoned.
The Durham Union Society, one of the world’s oldest student debating societies, will discuss the motion: “This house believes in a multicultural Britain”. For the proposal will be Kulveer Ranger, an advisor to Boris Johnson, and Conservative MP Edward Leigh.
Arguing against will be Andrew Brons, the British National Party MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, and Chris Beverley, a BNP councillor in Leeds.
Mr Brons said: “If the UAF want to defeat us, why don’t they defeat us with reasoned argument? I look forward to the debate.”
Anna Birley, the president of Durham Union Society, said: “While personally I disagree with the views of the BNP, I respect everyone’s right to freedom of speech. As president, I am responsible for promoting open debate, which means inviting people with opposing points of view – the best way to expose them to public scrutiny.”
Professor Chris Higgins, the vice-chancellor of Durham University, said: “I, personally, abhor the views of the BNP which I consider inappropriate, shallow and offensive.
“However, because the university is a strong advocate of freedom of speech, we did not oppose the right of the Durham Union Society to invite BNP members as long as they spoke as part of an open debate in which their views could be challenged.”
The debate, open to society members only, will be held from 8.30pm on Friday, February 12.
See also BNP allowed to campaign at Newcastle University - a student's personal view
...And for light relief: One in three Brits believe that Peter Griffin is the BNP Leader:
One in three people matched Nick Griffin’s image with Family Guy protagonist Peter Griffin’s name, naming the cartoon character as the leader of the British National Party.