James Forsyth

Why the Oxford Union has it wrong

Why the Oxford Union has it wrong
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The Oxford Union’s decision to invite David Irving and Nick Griffin to speak confuses the right to free speech with a duty to offer people a platform. Nick Griffin is, within the bounds of the law, free to sound off in his usual obnoxious way. But that freedom doesn’t oblige anyone to ask Griffin to come and speak to them. Equally, artists were free to draw the Muhammad cartoons but newspapers weren’t obliged to reprint them. 

When it comes to Irving the question ,as Deborah Lipstadt points out--via Clive, is not about intelligence but knowledge. Those listening to him won't be able to hold him to account for his views, as they won't know where the holes in his argument are and when he is dissembling about what a document says.

Julian Lewis was particularly eloquent on the platform question on the Today Programme this morning. But his principled decision to resign from the Oxford Union over the invite could, though, put some of his fellow MPs in a rather difficult position. There must be quite a few MPs, the majority of them Tory I suspect, who are life members of the Union. Are they all now going to come under pressure to resign?

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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