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EDL leader Tommy Robinson unlikely to appear at Oxford debate

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The controversial debate at Oxford Union with the English Defence League’s divisive leader Tommy Robinson may be suspended.

Tommy RobinsonScheduled for 14th November 2013 the debate carries the motion of ‘This House is Proud to be Patriotic’ and has drawn much media interest after Simon Blackaby’s informal invitation to Robinson on Twitter.

Blackaby, a committee member of the society tweeted to Robinson ‘the@Oxford Union would love to host you as a speaker’, which received criticism from the National Union of Students and the president of Oxford University’s student union.

Tom Rutland, president of OUSU, stated: “There is no value in inviting or hosting hate speakers in the name of ‘free speech’ when they themselves do not believe in free speech nor a free society, and stand on a platform of oppressing people because of their race, religion, gender or sexuality.”

However, it now seems the Union has got cold feet after Susan Beveridge, the union’s members secretary commented "Tommy Robinson has not been confirmed as a speaker for this debate yet and a formal invitation has not even been sent, he has merely been approached for his availability and whether he would be willing to participate.”

Beveridge concluded with "Therefore it is highly possible that he won't be featuring in it.”

Concerns have been raised about the level of security needed if Robinson did attend the debate. Parit Wacharasindhu, president of the Union reiterated the society’s tolerance of the principle of free speech, but also recognised the security problems the controversial debate could cause. "There will be security concerns - an issue raised by other parties - which need to be resolved" said Wacharasindhu.

The prestigious Union prides itself on the calibre of its speakers, who have previously included US President Richard Nixon, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Professor Stephen Hawking. 

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