Tommy Robinson, the EDL and the Oxford Union
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Simon Blackaby thinks that you can’t have a debate about nationalism without inviting the leader of a violent and reactionary gang of racist thugs. We disagree. Comment by Tessa Frost (Oxford, @tessafrost) & Orlando Lazar-Gillard (Cambridge, @lazargillard) The Oxford Union’s Simon Blackaby has extended an (as-yet-unofficial) invitation to Tommy Robinson – leader of the EDL – to speak for a motion on nationalism. Simon has wildly misunderstood the UAF and NUS ‘No Platform For Fascism’ policy, claiming that people have criticised the invitation “because it’s easier to win an argument if you don’t let your opponent speak”. This is no surprise. Whenever Oxbridge debating clubs invite a saucy, controversial speaker, a high-pitched, identikit defence in the name of free speech is sure to follow. The Union’s president, Parit Wacharasindhu, appears to be even more confused by the concept, insisting that “no speakers are ever given a platform”. There are good reasons to value No Platform, and good reasons to resist the invitation of speakers like Robinson. But why does the Union want him there in the first place? Blackaby claims that his only desire is for an “open and interesting debate” with a “variety of different views”.
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