Published on Thursday, 29 November 2012 17:55 Written by Sonia Gable
Kevin Scott, chairman of the far-right British Democratic Party, has withdrawn from tonight’s hate speech debate at Cambridge University citing “leftist violence”. An announcement on the website of Civil Liberty, which presents itself as an anti-political correctness civil rights campaign, states that the CUS was “unable to guarantee the personal safety and security of Civil Liberty’s director Kevin Scott and, as a consequence, he has no alternative but to withdraw from the debate”.
The debate, on the motion “This house believes hate speech is not a human right”, was to have featured six speakers but the listing on the Cambridge Union Society (CUS) website no longer includes Brian Paddick, the Liberal Democrat candidate for mayor of London in 2008 and 2012, and Claire Fox, the founder and director of the Institute of Ideas.
Scott’s last minute change of heart followed a campaign by Aaron Kiely, the National Union of Students’ Black Students Officer. After Gerry Gable, editor of Searchlight, contacted Kiely yesterday and told him of Scott’s long career as an organiser and activist for the racist British National Party, Kiely drafted an urgent open letter demanding that the invitation be withdrawn.
Pointing out that “fascists stand for the elimination of the democracy and all freedoms that the Cambridge Union Society claims to support” the letter said: “We should always remember that the millions of people who died at the hands of the Nazis slaughter – in the gas chambers and the concentration camps – did not die because their debating skills or arguments were not powerful enough. They died because once fascism had abused the democratic system to get its grip on power it soon closed down any freedoms to prevent any resistance. That is why we must never give a platform to fascists anywhere in the student movement.”
The letter, which was widely circulated by antifascist activists, quickly collected the signatures of a wide range of student and trade union officers as well as Gerry Gable himself, and Weyman Bennett and Sabby Dhalu, joint secretaries of Unite Against Fascism. This afternoon Nick Lowes, director of Hope Not Hate, said: “Well done to everyone involved”.
Gerry Gable said: “This is a victory for antifascists and shows what can be done in a very short period by everyone working together based on Searchlight’s good intelligence.”