A special adviser to a Conservative cabinet minister played host to David Irving — the world’s most notorious Holocaust denier — at an event while a student in 2007. As chair of the Oxford Union, Luke Tryl, now an aide to the new education secretary Nicky Morgan, reaped a whirlwind of controversy after he invited Irving to a debate alongside then BNP leader Nick Griffin.
‘Historian’ Irving, whose Holocaust revisionism and denial has been comprehensively dismissed by academics, was invited on grounds of free speech — despite the credibility that the prestigious union and its links with the city’s university threatened to lend his views.
In a 2000 legal case in which a judge ultimately branded Irving “a racist, an anti-Semite and an active Holocaust denier”, the court heard:
“Irving has fallen so far short of the standards of scholarship customary amongst historians that he does not deserve to be called a historian at all.”
Defending his decision to allow the event to go ahead, Tryl said of the November 2007 debate: “I remain committed to the principle that free speech has to prevail.” But this was an astonishing claim, given that one month prior Tryl had dis-invited the Jewish American academic Norman Finkelstein from a debate on Israel and Palestine amid claims that the union had been threatened by another scholar.
Perhaps the new regime at DfE will kindle hope amongst those want creationism taught in schools — all in the interests of free speech, of course.