Students back OUSU in No Platform showdown

By Rachel Bennett

OUSU’s No Platform policy, which bans far-right groups including the BNP and Islamic extremist from participating in Student Union events and elections, has won the support of a narrow majority of students. In a poll of over 500 students, 53% supported the policy, with 41% opposed and 6% undecided.

The result will strengthen the hand of the OUSU leadership, reeling from two shock disaffiliations, as it prepares to fight off a motion being brought to OUSU Council tomorrow by Queen’s JCR exec, calling for the policy’s repeal. It argues the risk of extremism in Oxford is ‘minimal’, and “if there is a substantial support for such groups, the best way of combating their hateful message is through open debate.

Sabbatical officers are tonight rallying loyalist Council members to defend the policy, seen as irrefutable by many in OUSU. President Alan Strickland said, “The danger posed by extremist groups should never be underestimated. We should give no platform to those who discriminate, victimise and marginalise. Students deserve better.” Queen’s JCR President Vishal Mashru is undeterred by the poll.

“The close result shows that support for the policy has dramatically decreased, indicating that it is time to readdress the issue,” he said. Leftwingers Thom Greenwood and Mark Baker yesterday lobbied JCR Presidents to back Strickland, stating, “The BNP destroy communities. If OUSU shows tolerance of fascists - even if it is so as to defeat them through rational argument - the BNP will use this nationwide to demonstrate their legitimacy.

Several JCR Presidents have reported that they would not be supporting Strickland in tomorrow’s vote. Neither Greenwood nor Mashru could predict a result but agreed it would be “close.” Students are divided ahead of the vote. Guy Fletcher-Wood, a Somer- ville engineer, said, “OUSU should let far-right hate groups be torn apart in open debate. Banning them makes it appear that OUSU is afraid of what they have to say.

Dave Green, a Lincoln fi nalist said, “No Platform policy isn’t about freedom of speech, but our freedom to determine how we use our resources. OUSU is a political body, and it is fair for us to have a policy against the BNP’s message of hatred.” Last term Strickland used the No Platform policy to force the cancellation of an interview with BNP chief Nick Griffin on Oxide radio station.

Station Manager Paul Arrich said, “I have spoken out against the policy in the past. But I’m just speaking for Oxide; OUSU must represent the views of the students.” The showdown comes as the Oxford Union tonight hosts Jamal Harwood, leader of the Islamic fundamentalist party Hizb Ut-Tahrir, also barred by the policy. The Oxford Student recently revealed how both the BNP and the extremist group al- Muhajiroun claim to have recruited in Oxford.

26th Apr 2007