David Irving: Oxford Union faces boycott over invite to Holocaust denier





The Defence Secretary, Des Browne, is leading a group of politicians and public figures who are boycotting an increasingly divided Oxford Union over the decision by its president to host a talk involving the Holocaust-denying historian David Irving and the BNP leader, Nick Griffin.

The event, entitled Free Speech Forum, which is planned for next Monday, has provoked uproar at the university and beyond. Some Oxford students say they have received death threats and fear they will be targeted by far-right groups.

More than a thousand people have signed a petition on the Downing Street website calling on Gordon Brown to condemn the talk. A protest rally in Oxford against what many students see as a cynical publicity stunt by the union's current president, Luke Tryl, is planned for tomorrow.

A string of politicians and celebrities have now pulled out of events at the world's most famous debating society, the credibility of which appears to have been badly damaged by Mr Tryl, a former chairman of the Halifax branch of Conservative Future, the Tory party's youth wing, who sees himself as a future prime minister.

Among those who have cancelled appearances are the television presenter June Sarpong, the Labour MP Chris Bryant and Mr Browne. Sources close to Mr Browne said he did not wish to be "on the same programme as such people" , and that "if he had known they had been invited he never would have agreed to speak in the first place".

Mr Tryl is said to be increasingly isolated in the society. One union insider said: "He has sacrificed so many great guests, simply for the sake of a fascist and a Holocaust denier to speak."



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