Free speech is becoming ever less free. Over the last 15 years, encroachments onto this several hundred year old right have been increasing. It would be remiss to lay the blame at any one government’s door. For the start of such interference began with the Blair-era New Labour government and have continued with aplomb under David Cameron’s Conservative government. The introduction of such draconian, heavy-handed and ill-considered legislation is therefore neither solely a Conservative nor Labour foible and – with their recent foray into government before their catastrophic implosion – the Liberal Democrats do not escape unscathed either.
The clampdown on free speech and basic civil liberties is manifestly a centrist obsession. Governments, and parties of government, across the board have played their part in pressing forward such inhibiting laws. The strongest opposition to such measures has unerringly come from those on, and to, the left of the Labour Party (eg Michael Meacher, Diane Abbott, Caroline Lucas, Peter Tatchell, et al) and the right, and those to the right, of the Conservative Party (eg David Davis, Douglas Carswell, Fiona Bruce, et al). Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat centrists and moderates appear to be those most keen to implement extreme, draconian and thoroughly immoderate laws that inhibit basic civil liberties.
If you value the right to be able to think and express opinions that may, or may not, accord with the cultural zeitgeist then consider joining the above campaign. If you find any of these following pronouncements troubling, then consider joining the above campaign.
“Extremism Disruption Orders will go “beyond terrorism” and “eliminate extremism in all its forms”. – George Osbourne, Chancellor of the Exchequer
“If that’s what you think and that’s what you believe and you want to hold that in your head, that is your business and your right but bear in mind that if you speak it out loud you might be breaking the law.” – Polly Harrow (head of safeguarding and Prevent) [in response to being asked if someone was allowed to have a religious opinion against homosexuality]
“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone… This Government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach.” – David Cameron, Prime Minister
“There will, I’m sure, be some who say politicians shouldn’t get involved in these matters. But to live in a modern liberal state is not to live in a moral vacuum. We have to stand up for our values as a nation. There will, I know, be some who say that what I describe as extremism is merely social conservatism. But if others described a woman’s intellect as “deficient”, denounced people on the basis of their religious beliefs, or rejected the democratic process, we would quite rightly condemn their bigotry. And there will be others who say I am wrong to link these kinds of beliefs with the violent extremism we agree we must confront. To them I say, yes, not all extremism leads to violence. And not all extremists are violent. But the damage extremists cause to our society is reason enough to act. And there is, undoubtedly, a thread that binds the kind of extremism that promotes intolerance, hatred and a sense of superiority over others to the actions of those who want to impose their values on us through violence.” – Theresa May, Home Secretary
Such moves are extremely worrying. They will stop any dissenting opinion and will impact the nature of debate, discussion, free thought and free speech. It will have knock-on effects for academia, education, entertainment, religious institutions and political discourse. Things have moved from the realm of allowing certain ideas to be frowned upon to making certain ideas unsayable and, in the process, is attempting to make certain thoughts unthinkable. It is without question a totalitarian move by an existent oligarchy. Despite what the Prime Minister and Home Secretary have repeatedly tried to claim, this has no place in a free society. It has no place in a liberal democracy. It cannot be squared with the free democratic system that Britain at least claims it wants to remain.
If you are in any way troubled by these moves, I strongly encourage you to make your voice heard here and write to your MP to express your concerns.