Oxford Union invites EDL leader

Oxford Union invite to Lennon

The Oxford Union has invited Tommy Robinson, the English Defence League leader branded a “fascist” by opponents, to a nationalism debate at the society in Michaelmas.

Unite Against Fascism Joint Secretary Weyman Bennett has said that the organisation, which has campaigned against the EDL since its inception, “opposes the invitation to Tommy Robinson and will call a peaceful demonstration”.

Secretary’s Committee member Simon Blackaby, of St John’s College, tweeted Robinson saying “the Oxford Union would love to host you as a speaker” and requested an email address to send a formal invitation to. Robinson tweeted back asking Blackaby to “[direct message] me your number”.

Union President Parit Wacharasindhu confirmed the invite was genuine and defended the decision, saying that the society was “founded on the principle of free speech. It provides a neutral arena where political views can be aired so long as they are contested”.

However he said that there would be “security concerns – an issue raised by both parties – which need to be resolved” before a formal invitation letter could be sent.

Cherwell, 2 July 2013

Update:  See Nathan Akehurst, “The Oxford Union must revoke Tommy Robinson’s invitation”, Oxford Student, 4 July 2013