Julien Blanc won't be packing his bags for the UK any time soon after being denied a travel visa. Stock picture: Damaris Helwig

London - A free speech row erupted on Wednesday night after a self-styled US “pick up artist” was banned from Britain for allegedly promoting violence and harassment of women.

Julien Blanc, who was accused of holding “sexist and utterly abhorrent views” by MPs and feminist campaigners, was denied a visa by the Home Office after an internet petition attracted 150 000 signatures. A social media campaign began against him last week after footage emerged of the 25-year-old using racist language and grabbing women by the throat.

Blanc, who had used the hashtag #ChokingGirlsAroundTheWorld on social media, had wanted to host a series of seminars in London, charging up to £1 200 for a three-day course, offering tips to men on how to attract women. Critics say his methods, such as threatening to commit suicide and isolating women from friends, are abusive and controlling.

Liberal Democrat Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone, who had demanded his exclusion from the UK, said: “Julien Blanc’s presence in the UK could have led to an increase in sexual violence and harassment. I am delighted that Mr Blanc won’t be coming to our shores.”

But Kate Andrews, of the respected Adam Smith Institute think tank, said: “The decision to deny Julien Blanc’s entrance into the UK has set the precedent that freedoms of speech and expression can be criminalised, if and when enough people sign a petition.

“Blanc’s comments are socially reprehensible and offensive to both men and women, but if we do not respect the rights of the offensive, we start risking the safety of any minority viewpoint.”

On Twitter, many activists celebrated the decision. Writer Daisy Buchanan said: “It makes me very happy that on International Men’s Day, Julien Blanc does not get to be an International Man.”