BBC executives have defended the decision to air an interview with French far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Remembrance Sunday.

A Twitter storm erupted after it was announced the National Front (FN) leader would be appearing on the Andrew Marr Show, with critics saying it was "inappropriate" to give Le Pen "a platform for fascism".

However, Rob Burley, the editor of the Andrew Marr show, defended the decision and dismissed the outrage.

In a series of tweets, he said: "Marine Le Pen is a controversial booking, but she is a serious contender for the French presidency whatever you think of her views.

"Her party's support – 6 [million votes] in 2015 elections, 6 million in the last presidential election and her ratings ahead of 2017 election significant.

"In French politics she is 'normalised' by public support. We either treat her seriously or censor her.

"The shocks to conventional wisdom of the referendum result and Donald Trump's election make her victory a possibility if it wasn't already.

"Unless a politician is irrelevant (ie no support or representation) or expresses views that are illegal, it is our job to hold them to account and allow viewers to understand what they think. Our views about them are irrelevant.

"If you're unhappy about Marine Le Pen's electoral success fair enough, but that success – and Trump's shock win – justify this interview."

Marr himself also defended the decision. He said: "A possible future French president, pro-Trump, pro-Brexit, pro-Putin, anti-NATO and EU. Nah, why would anyone care?"

Their responses followed a string of angry tweets.

Journalist Liam O'Hare wrote: "The BBC has invited a neo-fascist – Marine Le Pen – to be a guest on the Andrew Marr show this Sunday. Remembrance Sunday. Lest we forget?"

Caroline Evans posted: "On Remembrance Sunday, Marr sees Marine Le Pen as an appropriate guest. BBC frequently allowing fascism to be an acceptable political view."

The campaign group Stand Up To Fascism also staged a rally at the BBC's London offices in Corporation House.