Union defends decision to host nationalist politicians

The President of French right wing party Front National Marine Le Pen and Tea Party activist and former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin have been announced this afternoon as being among this term’s speakers at the Oxford Union.

Front National, the third largest political party in France, is known for its policies with regards to immigration and crime. In May 2014, they gained 25 per cent of the vote in the European Union elections.

Le Pen has recently come under criticism for a speech, published by Front National on YouTube on 7th January, in which she said:”It is my responsibility to make sure that the fear is overcome. This attack must instead free our speech about Islamic fundamentalism. We must not be silenced… We must not be scared of saying the words: this is a terrorist attack carried out in the name of radical Islam.”

Palin, a Republican Party member, ran for Vice-president in 2008, and is also a supporter of the Tea Party Movement, which in 2010 she called the “future of politics in America”. She is a member of the National Rifle Association, opposes same-sex marriage, abortion – including in the case of rape – and opposed the 2010 health care reform package.

A statement made by Lisa Wehden, President of the Oxford Union, told The Oxford Student: “This term card continues the Oxford Union’s tradition of balancing information, education and entertainment. The Oxford Union is a politically-neutral institution. Our members have a variety of views as do our views as do our speakers, officers and staff. An invitation from the Union is not an endorsement of any particular agenda.

“The Union believes in the principle of freedom of speech and we would encourage all members who disagree with an invited speakers view to attend the event and question the speaker. We allow our members to meet people face to face and make their own minds up. We invite no speakers who do not accept the right of our members to question them. Marine Le Pen will be answering questions from the audience after her address.”

In 2001’s Front National programme, Le Pen deemed immigration a “mortal threat to civil peace in France” and has been active in campaigning against the presence of Algerian and Tunisian immigrants in the country. She has also challenged the notion of dual-nationality.

Tom Foxton, a first-year Law student, commented: “Obviously she [Marine Le Pen] has views with which I and many others disagree, but I support her right to come. A “no platform” policy would be futile and disproportionate. Equally, I support the right of protesters, who will inevitably gather outside, to express their disapproval.”

Other speakers at the Union this term will include Anna Wintour, Herman Van Rompuy and Sean Rad.

Photo/Rémi Noyon