ConservativeHome – 25 November 2007
Conservative MP Dr Julian Lewis has resigned his life membership of the Oxford Union in protest at its decision to hold a 'Free Speech Forum' with BNP leader Nick Griffin and David Irving, jailed in Austria for denying the Holocaust. Television presenter June Sarpong, Defence Secretary Des Browne, and Austin Mitchell MP have also protested at the Union’s decision by pulling out of future debates.
In his letter of resignation, Dr Lewis wrote:
"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. It is sheer vanity on your part to imagine that any argument you deploy, or any vote you carry will succeed in causing them damage. They 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."
Local LibDem MP Evan Harris, due to speak at the Forum with Griffin and Irving defended the invitation for the two men to speak:
"The measure of our country’s respect for free expression is our willingness to allow it for the most objectionable and offensive lawful speech, not just for those with whom we agree."
Luke Tryl, President of the Oxford Union Debating Society, told Sky News:
"Nick Griffin likes nothing more than parading around in gags, saying he is being censored. I want us, the liberal mainstream, to show that we are not afraid to take him on in a debate, we will defeat him, and we will beat fascism every time."