Oxford

Protest over Oxford Union Marechal-Le Pen talk

Protest at the Oxford Union
Image caption About 50 protestors picketed outside the Oxford Union before the talk at 17:00 GMT

An Oxford Union talk by French far-right activist Marion Marechal-Le Pen sparked a protest.

The former MP for the French National Front (FN) is the niece of party leader Marine Le Pen and had a leading role in anti-gay marriage rallies.

Protest organisers said the debating society's invitations to far-right speakers helped embolden their racist views.

The Oxford Union said it respected people's "right to peaceful protest".

About 50 protesters took part ahead of Marechal-Le Pen's talk at 17:00 GMT.

'Fascist views'

Union president Daniel Wilkinson said the society was "pleased that people are out speaking their minds".

Oxford Stand Up To Racism was one of the groups protesting.

Spokesman Ian McKendrick said: "We think it's wrong for the Oxford Union to give people a platform with fascist views."

He said such platforms "embolden them".

Who is Marion Marechal-Le Pen?

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Image caption Marion Marechal-Le Pen quit frontline politics after Marine Le Pen lost the 2017 presidential election to Emmanuel Macron

Ms Marechal-Le Pen is the granddaughter of the founder of the French National Front Jean-Marie Le Pen.

She was elected to the French National Assembly in 2012 at the age of 22, and at the time she was France's youngest parliamentarian in modern history.

She was seen by some as a future leader of the far-right party, but after Marine Le Pen lost the 2017 presidential election to Emmanuel Macron, she quit frontline politics for "personal and political reasons".

The 29-year-old is a conservative Catholic and played a leading role in anti-gay marriage rallies, favouring what she called the "traditional family".

She has repeatedly spoken of the "true French" identity, demanding Muslims in France adopt values rooted in Christianity.

And one phrase she has repeatedly used about herself is that she is a "Francaise de souche" - of native French stock.

The union, one of the oldest debating societies in the UK, has been criticised for its choice of speakers in recent months.

In November, it was criticised for inviting controversial former adviser to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon.

In the same month, the leader of far-right German party Alternative for Germany (AfD), Alice Weidel, pulled out of a debate due to concerns about security.

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