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Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Free speech, yes, but on our terms

I'm well aware that the British National Party are gay-hating bigots, and I don't like them. Oh, they say they're not, but they think it (i.e. homosexuality) is something that ought not to be in the public square, not talked about in schools, that sort of thing.

That makes them gay haters in my book.

However, Nick Griffin, the BNP's leader, has been elected to the European Parliament. There wasn't an increase in the BNP vote as such, just a decrease in Labour's. Either way, he was voted in, by the election process that's been deemed legal and binding. He's an elected representative.

And that makes me shudder somewhat, but I shudder even more when I hear so-called anti-fascists declare, as one did on BBC radio yesterday, that freedom of speech is OK, but not for fascists.

I shudder when so-called lovers of freedom of speech halt a BNP news conference, as happened, by pelting the speaker with eggs. I'm glad that the anchor of BBC Radio 4's teatime news programme, Eddie Mair, gave the spokeswoman for a group called Unite Against Fascism (UAF) a hard time. And I don't think Mair is a BNP supporter, somehow.

According to the UK's Daily Telegraph:

Protest organiser Weyman Bennett, national secretary of Unite Against Fascism, said he believed it was important to stand up to the BNP.

"The majority of people did not vote for the BNP, they did not vote at all. The BNP was able to dupe them into saying that they had an answer to people's problems.

"They presented themselves as a mainstream party. The reality was because the turnout was so low, they actually got elected."

Bennett has a point: the turnout for the Euro elections in Britain was pathetic. If more people had got off their arses – or asked for a postal vote and used it – the BNP might not have gained as much support.

But neither the UAF nor any other group has any democratic right to prevent me or anyone else from hearing the questions that journos might have put to Griffin and the answers he might have given had not this press conference been disrupted.

It seems that some people want free speech, but only the free speech they want.


Diesel B said...

This story makes me so angry. I am angry that in the week which marked the 20th anniversary of the Chinese democracy movement being crushed under the jackboot of Communism, so many stupid, bone-idle British voters couldn't move themselves to exercise their precious hard-won freedom to vote and keep out extremists like the BNP.

Now we have the less than pretty spectacle of the BNP elite swaggering around, gaining privileged access to our democratic institutions and helping themselves to wads of Euro-cash with which to further legitimise and promote their insidiously racist and anti-gay agenda.

But at least the BNP won their seats, fair and square. No one elected that vile left-wing rabble who pelted Nick Griffin and his loathsome coterie with eggs. This just wins the BNP even more support and sympathy among working class dullards.

The eminently sensible Jon Cruddas, Labour MP for Barking & Dagenham, told The Times newspaper today that the protesters had played into the BNP’s hands by “reinforcing their sense of victimhood”.

Mr Cruddas, whose local council has the largest contingent of BNP councillors in the country, said: “There’s a democratic right to protest, which we should cherish, but at the same time we can’t disinvent the fact that they have been elected through the democratic process. We should acknowledge that and try to defeat their arguments rather than throwing eggs at them.”

Quite so, Mr Cruddas, quite so.

Stuart Hartill said...

What have things come to when Griffin's fellow BNP MEP, an unreconstructed John Tyndall era throwback, not only gets elected but in debating Margaret Hodge on Channel 4 last night comes across to anyone too young to know his vile past as a reasonable old school sort being attacked by a peeved political 'professional' who doesn't want real people interfering with her privileges. Just 20 years ago he was laughed off every street corner as a raving lunatic.
Candidates debating their opponent before an election, public going to the town hall to listen, talking about it at work or home and then turning up to vote - it's hardly controversial stuff but we don't do it any more.
No wonder the lunatics are taking over the asylum: they're the only ones who can be bothered to put in the graft and get the job. Everyone else just wants to play gesture politics or watch it on TV, as if fascism and democracy are housemates on the latest reality TV show.