Monday, 26 November 2007

Irving, Griffin and the Oxford Union

A debate on Freedom of Speech is due to take place tonight at the Oxford Union. The debating society has invited BNP chairman Nick Griffin and revisionist historian David Irving to take part in the debate. The decision has sparked uproar with one Conservative MP resigning his membership of the Oxford Union and several Labour ministers refusing to attend further Union debates unless the invitation is revoked. There will be the usual ANL/UAF protest as well as demonstrations from an array of other university groups.

It is right for anti-fascists to protest against this, but I do not think liberal politicians are in a position to counter the arguments of the BNP and those who deny the Holocaust. Three local authorities in England have more than six BNP councillors (Barking and Dagenham, Stoke, Epping Forest). We are in a situation where the BNP appears as a respectable party to ordinary voters, particularly in areas where the Labour Party were strong. It can be argued that liberal politicians have created the ideal conditions for far right parties to thrive, namely the long-term neglect of working class people and the failure to provide an alternative to the neo-liberal economic consensus which has created social dislocation and job insecurity.

Resigning from the Oxford Union or refusing to debate with fascists will not stop them from gaining votes. If the left wants to defeat the BNP before it grows any further, it must look at itself and the way it responds to current economic and social conditions.

If MPs continue with gesture politics and political point-scoring, this will simply give more weight to Nick Griffin's claims that he is a victim of repression.

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