A debate at the Oxford Union featuring the controversial historian David Irving scheduled for tomorrow night has been cancelled, it was confirmed today.
Irving, branded a ‘‘racist’’ and ‘‘anti-Semitic’’ during a High Court libel case last year, was due take part in a debate on ‘‘This House would restrict the free speech of extremists’’ at the world-famous debating society.
A spokesman for the Oxford Union said they had cancelled the event due to mounting pressure from students across the country and members of the student union at Oxford University.
Irving, 63, was due to debate the motion with Richard Rampton QC, John Sentamu, the Bishop of Stepney, and Rohan Jayasekera, the director of the Index on Censorship.
A previous invitation for Irving to speak at the Union last year was cancelled after widespread protests.
A large-scale demonstration due to attract scores of students, members of the Anti-Nazi League and the Union of Jewish Students, had been due to take place outside the Frewin Court premises at the same time as the debate.
At a special Oxford Union meeting last night, members voted by 95 to 15 to demand that the invitation to Irving be cancelled, it was revealed.
Oxford Union president Amy Harland declared that the vote was not binding but today announced the debate would no longer take place.
Kirsty McNeill, president of the Oxford University Student Union, who had condemned the planned visit by the ‘‘notorious racist’’, today said: ‘‘The Oxford Union Society should never have invited David Irving to speak.
‘‘I am delighted that the Union Society president has changed her mind. David Irving’s presence, plus that of the far right thugs who follow him around, would have posed a danger to ethnic minorities and disabled people be they local residents or students.
‘‘The decision by Amy Harland shows that she has listened to her members. They voted overwhelmingly last night to condemn the invitation and Ms Harland has acted in accordance with their wishes.
‘‘I hope the Oxford Union learns its lesson and takes into account the feelings of its members in future. It has a great history and I hope it can put this episode behind it.’’
Labour peer Lord Janner, secretary of the all-party Parliamentary War Crimes Group, said today he was ‘‘delighted’’ the ‘‘totally unacceptable’’ invitation had been withdrawn
‘‘It was disgraceful that the Union was proposing in the first place to provide a platform for a man who has been condemned by a High Court judge not only as a Holocaust denier, but also as someone who misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence,’’ he said.
Irving, who unsuccessfully defended himself in his libel action against Deborah Lipstadt after her book accused him of being a Holocaust denier, was left with a £2.3m legal bill following his defeat in the High Court.