Outrage over Marine Le Pen’s visit to Oxford University

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Marine Le Pen, leader of the French far-right Front National, has caused outrage by accepting an invitation to give a talk at Oxford University.

More than 200 demonstrators have pledged to protest outside the Oxford Union on Thursday afternoon.

Le Pen is due to arrive and give a speech at the prestigious debating society this evening.

“The union must reverse the decision to invite this notorious Islamophobe,” Weyman Bennett, Joint National Secretary of Unite Against Fascism, said on the group’s Facebook page.

Referring to Le Pen’s father, he added: “Jean-Marie Le Pen once called the Holocaust a ‘detail of history’. We will demonstrate to argue that fascists should never be allowed a platform.”

Marine Le Pen took over from her father as head of the nationalist, anti-immigrant Front National (FN) in 2011 and has since spearheaded a campaign to detoxify the party, which finished last year’s European elections as France’s largest with more than 25% of the vote.

Jean-Marie Le Pen previously described homosexuality as a “biological and social anomaly”.

In the 1980s he argued that all individuals with AIDS should be kept in isolation, and was still declaring that “there are no queens in the National Front” in the 1990s.

In contrast, Marine Le Pen has attempted to temper her remarks on gay issues. Whilst deeply critical of President Francois Hollande’s decision to legalise same-sex marriage, Le Pen refused to join FN supporters in mass protests against the reform in 2013.

However, in the same year, Le Pen paid tribute to writer and historian Dominique Venner who shot himself dead after denouncing same-sex marriage and immigration in a blog post.

“All respect to Dominique Venner whose final, eminently political act was to try to wake up the people of France,” Le Pen wrote on Twitter.

“It is in life and hope that France will renew and save itself,” she later added.

In December last year, Le Pen slammed the French edition of Closer magazine, after it printed photos outing Florian Philippot, the deputy leader of the FN.

The magazine – which is a separate entity from the British version – was responsible for exposing President Hollande’s affair actress with Julie Gayet.

Le Pen defended Philippot, saying: “This is a very serious infringement of an individual’s privacy. This type of behaviour is unbearable – Florian Philippot is entitled to a private life as much as [President] Hollande.”

Around the same time, Le Pen appointed a new adviser: Sébastien Chenu, one of the founders of the activist organisation GayLib. FN traditionalists complained loudly that their party was being taken over by a “gay lobby”.

The Spectator noted last month that a survey by polling firm Ifop has recorded a dramatic increase in support for the FN among gay and bisexual voters since the French presidential elections of April 2012.

The survey showed in Paris: 26% of gay voters supported Le Pen, compared with 16% of heterosexuals.

Discontent over France’s economy, religious tensions and concerns about immigration are said to be behind the rise.