Monday, November 26, 2007

The Oxford Union should hear Irving and Griffin if they want

I may be a nutcase, but generally I think that the more we hear from the likes of the BNP and David Irving, the better. The more we hear their views the clearer it is that they are ridiculous.

With the BNP you only have to start picking apart their policy on immigration which advocates:

...the introduction of a system of voluntary resettlement whereby those immigrants and their descendants who are legally here are afforded the opportunity to return to their lands of ethnic origin assisted by a generous financial incentives both for individuals and for the countries in question.

How much would be paid to such people? How would you determine what are "lands of ethnic origin"? Where would you draw the line? Would you pay money to the descendants of French Huguenots who came here in the seventeenth century to return to France? Would you pay money to descendants of the Africans who started arriving here in 1555 to return to Africa - and if so, how on earth would you decide which country to return them to? And would enough people take up this offer to make this policy worth a hill of beans? And wouldn't it divert vital funds from the NHS, schools and crime-fighting? And wouldn't you end up paying money to people who might have emigrated anyway without financial inducement?

There is also the venomous BNP attacks on Poles working in the UK. Surely most people in this country recognise that Polish pilots in the Battle of Britain helped to save our bacon?

And that phrase "indigenous Britons" which crops up all over the BNP website - is there any more stupid phrase? If people are descended from the Beaker Folk (and good luck trying to prove it, by the way) then they are entitled to call themsleves "indigenous Britons" - otherwise no-one is. And certainly not Anglo-Saxons, those Johnny-come-latelies who arrived here in AD 400-600 (Well, I can allow myself a little feeling of Celt superiority, can't I?).

The point is, the more you examine the BNP's policies, the more you watch the ridiculous cant of Nick Griffin, the more they are exposed for what they are. Yes, racists. But also ridiculous, idiotic buffoons.

So that is why I welcome any opportunity for the BNP and Nick Griffin, in particular, to speak.

I am glad that Evan Harris has decided to speak against Griffin and Irving in the debate tonight.

It should also be noted that the Oxford Union debate tonight does not contain a motion. It is 'A Night of Discussion on the Limits of Free Speech'.

Luke Tryl, President of the Oxford Union puts these powerful points:

These people are not being given a platform to extol their views, but are coming to talk about the limits of free speech. What is more, they will be speaking in the context of a forum in which there will be other speakers to challenge and attack their views in a head to head manner and with the opportunity for students to challenge them from the floor. It is my belief that pushing the views of these people underground achieves nothing. The best way to deal with these views was summed up by Home Office Minister Tony McNulty on Thursday and that is 'to crush these people in debate'. Stopping them from speaking only allows them to become free speech martyrs, and from my own experience back in Halifax, which has suffered from race relation problems in the past, groups like the BNP do well if they look like they're being censored. Unlike OUSU, I think it's patronising to suggest that Oxford students aren't intelligent enough to debate with these people and I do have great faith in the ability of Oxford students to challenge them.

I agree that it is doubtful that there will be any "crushing" of Griffin/Irving. But I am with Evan Harris on this. There should not be a "no platform" policy. Our views are not so fragile that we can't debate them and hold up the BNP's views for exposure. As Evan says:

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.

Lastly, I was very impressed by Oxford graduate and novelist Diran Adebayo speaking this morning on Breakfast on BBC1:

This seems to me to be relatively reasonable to invite these two people. Nick Griffin is a leader of a political party, David Irving is an academic and historian, let's hear what they've got to say.

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