THE manager of Lewes Speakers Festival has accepted that Katie Hopkins’ scheduled talk is “controversial” but said he believed it should go ahead.

Yesterday we reported that the festival was considering pulling the plug on the columnist’s appearance amid public pressure.

But festival boss Marc Rattray has now defended the booking and said it would be “regrettable” for the event to be cancelled.

He said: “We have received a number of emails from members of the public that we withdraw her invitation. That, to my mind, would be regrettable. I hold free speech as a virtue in a democracy.”

Speaking on the radio, Ms Hopkins told her detractors not to aim their anger at the festival organisers. She said: “What I would plead with people is please don’t attack the lovely organiser.

“People can be blunt, rude and say anything they want to me. I’m impossible to offend. I really respect the organiser. I was asked to come and I said yes politely. I don’t charge a fee. I want to come because I like engaging with people.”

Mr Rattray encouraged Ms Hopkins’ critics to attend her talk – which will be mostly autobiographical – if they disagreed with the columnist’s views.

He said: “If you have strongly held views that oppose those of Katie Hopkins, I think it would be better to show confidence in them by demonstrating through reasonable argument why her opinions are pernicious and wrong by coming to talk.

“She is free to express her opinions within the limits of the law. She is coming of her own free will and is not paid to do so.

“It is not a specifically political speech.”

Ms Hopkins is due to appear at Lewes Speakers Festival on November 25.