Fortunately, they did not succeed. Marine Le Pen – leader of the popular French Front National Party – was greeted by an ‘anti-fascist’ protest by the real fascists from the Left and the Muslim world, as she addressed a Cambridge University debating group on Tuesday.
HUFFPO The daughter of Jean Marie Le Pen, who took over the party leadership from her father in 2011, addressed students at the Cambridge Union debating society this afternoon.
Sabby Dhalu, a fascist member of Unite Against Facism, told HuffPost UK: “It is a shame Britain’s intelligentsia have not learnt the lessons of history. Cambridge Union’s decision to invite Marine Le Pen is giving her and the Front National a platform and publicity.
“Irrespective of what the union’s intentions are, giving preachers of hate a platform encourages and emboldens fascists on the street, especially in Cambridge where the EDL will be demonstrating on Saturday.”
Le Pen, 44, who has been an MEP since 2004, spoke about the future of the European Union and French politics. A spokesman for the Cambridge Union Society defended the decision to invite her to speak. He said: “We welcome the opportunity to discuss, debate, and challenge an individual who has had an unquestionable impact on French and European politics.
“Whether you agree with her politics or not, this event represents one of the very few opportunities a British audience has had to directly engage with Mrs Le Pen, who finished third in the last French presidential election, behind Hollande and Sarkozy, and who currently sits in the European Parliament as a democratically elected representative.”
One news site reported Le Pen was applauded by students at the end of her question and answer session, which followed her 35-minute long speech.
In a blog for The Huffington Post UK, Cambridge international student Jinho Clement said despite finding her views “repulsive”, he believed “the best way to address this problem is to engage with it”. “For the sake of people like me who don’t know much about people like Le Pen, it makes a lot of sense to invite her to Cambridge. ‘Free speech’ ensures that societies like the Union can provide a forum for discussions like these.”
Rosalyn Old, president of Cambridge University’s Student Union (CUSU), has voiced her opposition to the debating society’s decision to invite Le Pen to speak. Old withdrew from speaking at a previous union event in protest, saying: “The invitation by the Union Society to Marine LePen is more than just insensitive, it will have a direct effect on the safety of many of our students. It disregards the realities of fascism and the current context of Cambridge.”
The Union Society is well known for hosting controversial speakers, who have in the past included former IMF chief Dominique Strauss Kahn and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
Marine LePen’s speech at Cambridge: