Jack Straw's decision to share a platform with the BNP caused division in Labour's ranks last night.
The Justice Secretary has agreed to appear on the BBC's flagship political show Question Time alongside the far-Right party's leader Nick Griffin.
The move reverses Labour's long-held policy of not sharing a platform with the BNP.
And it has proved highly controversial with many MPs, who still feel the best way to defeat the BNP is by denying it the oxygen of publicity.
Mr Straw will appear on the programme with Mr Griffin on October 22. The debate will be broadcast from London amid tight security.
Mr Straw's Blackburn seat has previously been targeted by Mr Griffin's party because of its sizeable Muslim population.
Yesterday he insisted that Labour's past success in neutralising the BNP was because it had 'fought them hard'.
Mr Straw added: 'Wherever we have had BNP problems in my area and when we have fought them hard, we've pulled back and won the seats back. And that's what we have to do.
'We've got to make the argument for people and I am delighted to do so.'
Labour was forced to review its 'no platform' policy after the BBC announced it would invite the BNP to take part in Question Time following the party's success in this year's European Parliament elections, when it won two seats.
Many within Labour are angry at the BBC's decision to allow Mr Griffin, who has a criminal conviction for distributing material likely to incite racial hatred, a political voice.
Former Europe Minister Denis MacShane called the invitation an 'irresponsible gimmick' and urged MPs not to take part.
The Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have already said they will participate in the show, although it is not known who they will put forward to appear.
A Conservative spokesman said: 'We have seen the BNP do well in areas where people haven't been prepared to take them on.
'Now they are elected we have got to face up to that reality. We will take them on in argument and debate.'
Several Cabinet ministers, including Peter Hain and Alan Johnson, said they would not appear on Question Time if the BNP leader was invited.
And the anti-fascist group Searchlight called on all the main parties to refuse to take part in any edition of the show which included the BNP.
Tony Kearns, assistant general secretary of the Communication Workers Union said it was a 'disgrace' that the BBC was going ahead with offering the BNP a seat on Question Time despite a huge public outcry in recent weeks.
He also called on Government ministers and MPs to join protests against the decision.
Jon Cruddas, Labour MP for Dagenham, has led past campaigns against the BNP and said it was difficult to know how to respond to the appearance of the party on the show.
He told a fringe meeting at the Labour conference in Brighton yesterday: 'It's a high wire act. I don't know what the precise solution to this is.
'Over the years we've had a "no platform" thing with the BNP but that offers diminishing returns now because they're in forms of electoral representation that they never were when we devised that policy.'
Asked about Mr Straw's decision he said: 'I've never shared a platform with the BNP. But Jack's one of our most sophisticated and seasoned participants. He knows the BNP from his own back yard.
'I think he could take it to them and expose them.
'The real problem would be if we put up people who don't know what they are talking about when they deal with them.