This is a draft put together in my lunchbreak. It may change by tonight
Second Thoughts on UKIP
by Sean Gabb
The day before yesterday, I published an article about my attendance at the rally of the United Kingdom Independence Party in Exeter. This was a strongly positive account, and was coupled with an explanation of my refusal to consider standing as a candidate for UKIP. I was called this morning and told that my article has caused such outrage within UKIP that my invitation to speak at the rally to be held in Morcambe on the 29th of this month has been withdrawn.
This outrage, it seems, was caused by my brief statement of what it means to be a libertarian. I said the day before yesterday that I believe in legalising all drugs, in repealing all race relations laws, and in repealing some of the laws against child pornography.
I am surprised that my statement had this effect. I have spent the past three decades arguing very clearly on every occasion for what I believe. My writings are very clear and are all over the Internet. I state my views several dozen times a year on radio and television. I spent most of the 1990s explaining them in meetings of the Conservative Party. Anyone who was not previously aware of what I and the Libertarian Alliance and the libertarian movement in general believe has a very weak claim to be taken seriously as a participant in British politics.
I cannot be bothered to justify my position on drug legalisation. I doubt if what I said about the race relations laws caused any offence within UKIP – not, I fear, because most UKIP members believe in freedom of speech and association, but because some of them rather like the idea of being allowed to behave uncharitably to people of other races. However, though I shall not say anything I have not said many times already, I will briefly clarify my views on child pornography.
I do not believe children can give valid consent to any sexual act. Therefore, sex with children should be illegal. It should be illegal because there is a chance of physical harm, and because there is some chance – though perhaps less than we are told – of emotional harm; and because, regardless of the acts, it seems to be that the sort of people who want to have sex with children should not generally be allowed near children. If anyone in UKIP claims that I am in favour of sex with children, he needs to be stupid or malevolent.
I turn to child pornography. If someone produces or commissions indecent pictures of a child, he is guilty of sexual assault or is an accessory to sexual assault. If someone merely buys such pictures, without having directly commissioned them, it is arguable that he too should be treated as an accessory – in the same way as it is illegal knowingly to buy stolen goods. If someone is under investigation for a sexual assault on children, and a search of his property turns up indecent pictures of children, these should of course be used as evidence.
I do not believe, however, that mere possession of such pictures should be an offence. In general, I believe that people should be free to have anything they like on their own property. The obvious exceptions to this rule would be stolen property and the sort of thing that would allow a tort action under the Rylands v Fletcher rule. For example, if I am an alcoholic chain smoker and I have 500 jerry cans of petrol in my basement, my neighbours should be able to take me to court and have the petrol removed. And it is a matter of practical convenience whether my neighbours should be expected to rely on the civil courts or be able to call on the police. Beyond that, an Englishman’s home should be his castle.
The most practical argument for this rule is that indecent photographs might be part of a chain of evidence against a child molester, and the case will usually stand or fall on all the evidence. Where possession is concerned, conviction can be on the word of a single police officer. There is no need to prove anything beyond the fact of possession. This is an abuse of law. Our own authorities may not be so corrupt and oppressive as their counterparts elsewhere in the world. But it is well known that the police fit people up in this country. They fabricate evidence of crimes sometimes because they believe someone is guilty but cannot find the evidence, or because they simply dislike someone. And we are moving rapidly to a political environment in which dissidence will be punished by accusations of crimes that need no external evidence but produce an indelible taint on one’s reputation.
Because people often have short memories for law, I will add that possession of child pornography only became an offence in 1994. Members of UKIP are forever quoting Hugh Gaitskill about “a thousand years of British history”. Well, I have been publicly snubbed by UKIP because I am not happy with a fourteen year old law rammed through Parliament by Michael Howard.
I turn now to child pornography produced abroad. I thought it was a central part of the UKIP argument to be hostile to extraterritorial jurisdictions. The decisions of foreign legislative assemblies and courts should have no direct application in our own country. An obvious converse of this position is that our own courts should not punish offences committed in foreign countries. By all means, let suspects be extradited to face trial for crimes committed abroad – extradited, of course, with rather more scrutiny than now takes place. But our courts should have no direct jurisdiction over acts committed abroad.
If we assume that the purpose of the laws against child pornography are to protect children, rather than police the imagination, it follows that indecent pictures made in Thailand are a matter for the Thai authorities.
And for the record, I will say that what I think about child pornography applies to all other pictures and literature. People should be allowed to have bomb making instructions, holocaust revision propaganda, and video clips of killings in Iraq. In some cases, they should be at liberty to publish these. In all cases, they should be left alone to keep them at home.
Perhaps I am mistaken. Perhaps there is an argument against my position that I have not considered. But I am myself outraged that anyone could be so outraged by what I say that an invitation to speak made and accepted months ago should be suddenly withdrawn.
The title of the speech I gave last Saturday was “National Independence is not Enough”. What UKIP has just done is a good illustration of the argument I put, and of the wider background argument that I left unsaid. These people want to leave the European Union – and I agree with them. But what is their vision for an independent country? The answer, I fear in many cases, is that their only objection to the gigantic police state rising up around us is that it is enabled by the Treaty of Rome, and is directed against middle-aged white people rather than racial or sexual minorities. Free of Brussels, they would be delighted to live under a purely domestic tyranny. Others probably have no vision at all, beyond a vague belief that we can all go back to the good old days of the 1950s.
No wonder the Eurosceptic parties have not been able to break through in any domestic election, and are such easy targets for mockery by the ruling class.
There is an obvious difference between prudence and cowardice. I argued the other day that it would not be wise to ask me to stand as a UKIP candidate. Dropping me as one speaker among many is just contemptible. It indicates that I am right in my suspicions given above. At best, it shows a timidity and unsureness of purpose that calls in doubt the willingness of UKIP actually to deliver on the most controversial issue in British politics – which is to face down a wall of ruling class opposition and withdraw from the European Union.
I do not think there is any personal bitterness in my saying that I have reconsidered my opinion of UKIP. I shall continue to vote for it in elections because that is my one electoral chance to bring pressure on the Conservatives. But I realise I was far too enthusiastic in what I wrote about last Saturday.
NB�Sean Gabb’s book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded free from http://tinyurl.com/34e2o3. You can help by contributing to publishing and distribution costs