Poll to decide if Oxford will host Griffin and Irving debate
OXFORDUNIONpresidentLukeTryl, who has championed a debate involving Holocaust-denier David Irving and British National Party chairman Nick Griffin, has told the JC he will withdraw the invitations if he loses what is in effect a vote of confidence.
Union members are due to vote today (Friday) on a motion supporting the invitations to Irving and Griffin at the same time as they vote for the organisation’s summer-term president.
Mr Tryl said: “If the poll goes against me, I will withdraw the invitations. At the end of the day, I am accountable to my members. If they don’t want it, it won’t happen.”
He denied that the long-running controversy since the invitations became known had damaged the society. The latest high-profile names who have cancelled appearances include Defence Secretary Des Browne and television presenter June Sarpong.
“We have had more than 50 speakers this term, but all one hears about are the five or so who have pulled out,” he said.
He also fended off criticism that the Union was guilty of double standards after its standing committee imposed rules forbidding members to discuss the motion or campaign for it, saying that he had not been present when the rules were set. The Irving-Griffin event scheduled for Monday is entitled “A Night of Discussion on the Limits of Free Speech”.
He also denied the rules were put in place to hamper the efforts of the debate’s opponents to drum up enough votes.
Both the Oxford University Students’ Union and the Jewish Society have condemned the standing committee’s move. OUSU president Martin McCluskey said: “Their regulations are ridiculous. They are holding a debate about free speech but are denying their own members [the right to say] anything about this. They have even tried to impose the rules on non-members.”
J-Soc president Steven AltmannRicher said: “They have tried to make it as difficult as possible for those who are opposed to this event.”
The Union of Jewish Students said it was planning to bus in students from across the country if Monday’s debate goes ahead. Campaigns organiser Yair Zivan said they hoped to bring contingents from London,Bristol,Birmingham,Manchester, Leeds and Nottingham to take part in a peaceful demonstration outside the debating chamber with local student groups, trades unions and other organisations. Appeals have gone out via the internet for all Union lifelong members to try to get to Oxford to vote. While at least two internet sites were calling for a show of right-wing support on Monday night, Thames Valley police said it hoped the event would pass off peacefully. A spokesman said that while entry was by invitation only and was openonlytomembers of the Union, police wil l k e e p a close watch o n t h e event.
The BNP’s Nick Griffin