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By Matt Handley
UPDATE: In response to the decision by the Oxford Union to rescind his invitation to speak on Thursday, Nick Griffin has responded on his Twitter page (@nickgriffinmep): “Disgraceful cowardice so if I get back from parliament I’ll go anyway. As a life member of the Cambridge Union I have reciprocal membership. ”
He also expressed anger that: “Oxford Union debating society having surrendered to leftist threats & rescinded my debate invitation, now ‘commends the work’ of left thugs.”
This follows news that The Oxford Union has revoked an invitation offering British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin the chance to speak at this Thursday’s debate on the motion “This house would be glad to have gay parents”.
The Union has claimed that the invitation was sent by mistake, with the society’s official Twitter page (@OxfordUnion) announcing that: “A new committee member arbitrarily invited Griffin. We deeply regret this & are taking disciplinary action. Invite was immediately rescinded.”
In a statement, the Union confirmed: “We have since rescinded the invitation in no uncertain terms, and are taking disciplinary action against the committee member in question. We stress that the invitation, though it may have looked official, was not signed off by the President, and was not made on behalf of the Oxford Union.”
The invite, sent on December 3rd 2012 is signed off in the name the President however the Union’s spokesperson claimed that a newly-elected Secretary’s committee member was responsible for the invitation. “Recently it came to the attention of the Oxford Union that a new member of Secretary’s committee had arbitrarily sent out a batch of invitations to several people.
“Although the committee member did not at any point clear these invitations with the President or any other senior member of the Union committee, they wrote the letters in the President’s name and on behalf of the Union as a whole.”
The release goes on to distance the debating society from the far-right party: “The Oxford Union does not wish to be associated with the BNP in any way whatsoever. We strongly disagree with their views.”
The letter’s writer claims to be able to “guarantee [Griffin] a great welcome in Oxford”, and cites his 2007 visit as reason for the offer: “I think you would be a particularly good speaker for what is going to be discussed because your previous debate at the Oxford Union was considered thought provoking and stimulating by our members, and you have commentated on this motion publicly on numerous occasions.”
Griffin’s speech in 2007 in a debate on freedom of speech was marred by controversy as hundreds of protesting students and anti-fascist protestors surrounded the Union chamber, with scuffles emerging amongst some of those gathered in the hall. This prompted the BNP leader to describe the protestors as a “mob which would kill”, claiming that “had they grown up in Nazi Germany they would have been splendid Nazis”.
Thursday’s debate has already generated controversy with the inclusion of Scott Lively on the Opposition team. Lively is involved in the pending anti-gay legislation in Uganda, which would, if passed, make homosexual conduct punishable by imprisonment or death. Lively also co-authored the 1995 book ‘The Pink Swastika’, the preface of which states that: “homosexuals [are] the true inventors of Nazism and the guiding force behind many Nazi atrocities.”
Simone Webb, President of Oxford’s LGBTQ Society said: “I personally don’t have a problem with someone like Nick Griffin being invited to a debate, for the explicit purpose of having his views challenged.”
However, she expressed discontent with the way in which the debate’s motion was worded: “I’m annoyed at the bi/pan erasure implicit in the title of the Union debate (bisexual people and pansexual people can be in same gender relationships; I don’t think that “gay parents” is the best way to refer to it.)”
Daniel Bregman, Merton College’s LGBTQ rep also suggested that the fraudulent invite of Griffin wasn’t the real issue with Thursday night’s debate. He said “Honestly though, I’m more concerned about Scott Lively’s invitation, since presumably that wasn’t a mistake from some ‘junior member of the team’. He’s going to go back to the US and Uganda with ‘Guest Speaker on Homosexuality at the Oxford Union’ on his CV while he nigh-on encourages lynchings and persecution, all because some arse on Standing Committee wanted a way to boost attendance.”
The original invitation was posted on the Hope not hate blog earlier today, and can be viewed here.
The debate on the motion “This house would be glad to have gay parents” will take place in the Union Chamber at 8.30pm on Thursday 17th January.