Written by Student Rights on 20 February 2013 at 12pm

Daily Mail: Angry clashes at Cambridge University as French far-right leader Marine Le Pen arrives to give speech to debating society

By Amanda Williams

19th February 2013

The leader of France's far-right Front National was greeted by anti-fascist protesters today ahead of a debate at the Cambridge Union.

Marine Le Pen - daughter of Jean Marie Le Pen and who took over the party leadership from her father in 2011 - addressed students at the Cambridge Union debating society about the future of the European Union and French politics this afternoon.

Her appearance sparked controversy, with anti-fascist group Unite Against Fascism organising a demonstration of about 200 people outside the famous venue.

Officers from Cambridgeshire Police attended to prevent trouble.

A spokesman for the Cambridge Union Society defended the decision to invite Ms Le Pen, 44, who has been an MEP since 2004.

He added: '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.'

Student Rights, a group supporting equality, democracy and freedom from extremism on university campuses, called for the university to investigate the decision to invite Le Pen to speak.

In a statement, it added: 'Universities do have a duty to uphold freedom of speech, but they are no place for the promotion of fascist views, and university authorities have a duty of care to their students to protect them from those who would promote hatred.'

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.