February 03, 2010

BNP invite to debate sparks concerns

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 The group wants the meeting cancelled or the invitations withdrawn, and is planning demonstrations outside the Debating Chamber, on the Palace Green, Durham City.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.

Northern Echo

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.


Anonymous said...

Fascists crave respectability. That is why seemingly innocuous debates such as this are so important to them. However, there is some political schizophrenia going on here. On one hand, they want to appear as 'just another, normal, democratic' political party but on the other they play up their outsider, even outlaw, status. Fascist parties traditionally have tried to appear as all things to all (White) men!

Workingman said...

Its the same old story as when Griffo went to speak in oxford. The difference being that this time they already have a platform (thx mainly to the BBC.) I doubt if the bnp care very much wether they debate or not as its the publicity they seek. Heres hoping they get as trashed as the dear leader did on QT.

La di da Gunner Graham said...

How low student politics have stooped :(

Joe Chapman said...

"While personally I disagree with the views of the BNP, I respect everyone’s right to freedom of speech." - Anna, Union President.

Sorry but I think this is incorrect. It's a private debating society, not a public place. No-one has a right to speak, they have to be invited. Therefore this is not a case of freedom of expression. If people were attempting to stop The BNP speaking in places where they have a right to speak then that would be against freedom of expression.

I wish people would stop crying freedom of expression every time they want to justify taking stupidly contraversal decisions most likely for personal gain under the mask of promoting open debate. Open debate with people that are against open debate and use open debate to gain a position where they can stop open debate. That seems a little naive.

Joe Chapman said...

I'm not sure that the Oxford union thing was even a debate (I was outside at the time). I think they just spoke. Which kind of adds to knocking down the idea that people are trying to encourage open debate.

shame some of these students could be our future politicians.