The City Council have joined the growing chorus of opposition against the Oxford Union’s latest far-right speaker invitation.
In an official letter to Union President Dan Wilkinson, the Council’s executive board member for public safety expressed concerns about “the Oxford Union’s pattern of endangering community safety by inviting fascists into the city.
“Steve Bannon, Tommy Robinson, Marine Le Pen, Alice Weidel. Now Marion Marechal Le Pen. The Union has recently put an unhealthy fascination with courting controversy ahead of doing the right thing by Oxford, the city that’s called it home since 1823.”
Councillor Tom Hayes argued that the Union was legitimising the far-right, writing: “While you may live in Oxford for a short time, the costs of your courting of controversy will last a long time. It should be of concern that this line-up of fascists you are inviting into Oxford get to exploit the prestige of the Union to legitimise prejudice.
“We know that hate hurts. Up the road from the Union, there will be an exhibition on the Lessons of the Holocaust at the same time as you are enabling fascists to spread a sickening series of racist views. That exhibition clearly shows just how much hate hurts and how much the legitimisation of hate can hurt on the biggest possible scale. I invite you to visit the Town Hall to discuss your invitation and visit the exhibition.”
The letter also raised concerns about the cost of security for the event: “Our cash-strapped, cut-back Thames Valley Police should not be forced to police this event when they could be stopping and catching criminals, just as they should never be made to pay for the costs of policing the Union’s attention-grabbing behaviour. What security support will the Union be giving to your event?
“We have seen stand-offs between police and far-right activists in the capital, and I do not want to see similar stand-offs in Oxford city centre. I have concerns for the safety of the police, as well as our citizens, and urge you to do the right thing and revoke an invitation which ought never to have been made.”
Oxford East MP Anneliese Dodds has also fiercely criticised the Union’s decision, calling on the Union’s leadership to “grow up” and cancel the invitation.
The MP said: “Inviting Marion Maréchal-Le Pen to the Oxford Union legitimises one of the ‘new generation’ of fascists. She is known to be on the far-right even of the far-right National Rally.
“The Oxford Union’s pathetic courting of publicity by inviting racist after racist is deeply frustrating for local people. Our city is proud of its diversity and yet the Oxford Union seems determined to threaten this.”
The statement comes as a planned protest gathers pace, with one event on Facebook listing 175 people as going and 529 as interested. The event is being hosted by a number of local and national activist groups, including Oxford University Labour Club and the Oxford SU LGBTQ+ and racial equality campaigns.
Mr. Wilkinson are yet to respond to request for comment