Political speech and action in Britain: What is legally permitted ?

by Robert Henderson


Political speech and action in Britain: What is legally permitted ?
Robert Henderson

Free speech is a very simple concept: you either have it or a range of permitted opinion, the scope of which can be altered at any time (http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2011/06/04/free-expression-or-permitted-opinion-that-is-the-choice/). Sadly and dangerously, not only is free expression in Britain unavailable, but the range of permitted opinion is becoming ever narrower . This is a consequence of the totalitarian ideology that is political correctness becoming embedded ever deeper into the British power structure through laws both criminal and civil and the control of the mass media by the politically correct. Great swathes of political opinion are deemed criminal or at least grounds for excluding their holder from not only mainstream politics but public debate. It is no longer possible to engage in political activity without fear of prosecution, loss of employment (especially in publicly funded jobs) or being the subject of a media hate campaign.

British political parties can no longer be what they want to be

The most fundamental breach of democratic political action in a Parliamentary system such as that of Britain is to deny a party the right to recruit as it chooses. It is the most fundamental breach because, if a party cannot recruit freely and stand whatever candidates it chooses in elections , it is barred from any chance of taking part in a government or having a significant voice in opposition on its own terms. By controlling party membership the policies of a party are determined. This is the position in modern Britain.

It is no longer possible for a party wishing to stand candidates in British elections to choose who shall be its members and candidates or determine what are its fundamental beliefs. This was made clear by a court ruling of Judge Paul Collins in March 2010:

The British National party was plunged into chaos yesterday, weeks before the general election, when a court ordered it to remove central beliefs and policies about race from its constitution.

In a landmark injunction at the Central London county court, a judge found that the BNP’s membership policy remained discriminatory, even after a direct whites-only clause was removed last month.

The judge, Paul Collins, ordered the BNP to remove two clauses from its constitution as they were indirectly racist towards non-white would-be members.

The party also remains banned from signing up new recruits until it satisfies Collins it has changed the constitution, although it said last night that applications to join were being processed again.

In a further blow to the party’s election hopes, it was ordered to pay an estimated £60,000 in legal costs. The bill could rise to £100,000 when its own legal fees are included.

While one offending clause is largely an administrative matter – a requirement that all new members agree to a vetting visit from BNP officials, something the judge found could intimidate non-white applicants – the other spells out core beliefs.

This is a requirement for members to believe in the “continued creation, fostering, maintenance and existence” of an indigenous British race and action towards “stemming and reversing” migration.

The BNP last month voted to remove a direct bar on non-white members after a legal challenge from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The government equalities watchdog then challenged the revised constitution on the grounds that ethnic minority Britons could still not subscribe to the party’s beliefs without “denying themselves”.

Collins ruled in favour of the commission, ordering the BNP to remove the offending clauses by Monday afternoon or face potential legal penalties.

The EHRC head of legal enforcement, Susie Uppal, said: “Political parties, like any organisation, are obliged to respect the law and not discriminate against people who wish to become members.”

The BNP’s leader, Nick Griffin, said the decision “opens a very dangerous door. It’s a huge change to the unwritten constitution of Britain. The judgment has given a government-appointed, taxpayer-funded quango the rights to change the aims and objectives of political parties.” The costs award would “have some effect” on the BNP’s election campaigning, but it would not be significant, he added.

Griffin said he had already amended the constitution so the clauses were removed from membership criteria. He insisted, however, that the beliefs about immigration and race would remain, even if members did not have to officially sign up to them. “It won’t make any practical difference to us. But it’s hugely symbolic,” he said. ().

The judge’s ruling means that the BNP cannot in principle prevent those from ethnic minorities or the white “antiracist” political left from joining the party with an intent to sabotage it. In addition, the policy of the party has been changed in the sense that its ostensible core values are no longer core values because their acceptance is no longer required of members. Nor is it clear whether the BNP could legally refuse membership to anyone because, if it cannot insist that members must support the ‘”continued creation, fostering, maintenance and existence” of an indigenous British race and action towards “stemming and reversing” migration’, prospective members could believe and advocate anything with regard to race and immigration, including demands for Sharia law and the abolition of immigration controls. Such a person out to sabotage the BNP could accept the rest of the party’s political platform , much of which is, ironically, shared by the mainstream parties, to prevent membership being denied on any other ideological ground. More banally, the BNP could be forced to take people who deliberately try to disrupt its administration. There

would also be greater opportunity for leftist agent provocateurs to join the party to engage in violence or crude racist language to reinforce the liberal elite’s portrayal of the BNP as no more than a group of hooligans always on the verge of criminality.

In the present political climate it is also probable that any person refused BNP membership who belonged to an ethnic minority or was native white Briton and came from an “antiracist” background, would find the courts likely to support any action they brought for damages against the BNP on the grounds that they had been discriminated against because of their race, ethnicity or refusal to accept the BNP “core beliefs”. It is not inconceivable that if such suits were brought, the EHCR (http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/) might climb on the “anti-discrimination” bandwagon again and obtain a further court order banning further recruitment or even making the collection of subscriptions from existing members illegal until the refused members were accepted. The

reduction ad absurdum of Judge Collins’ ruling would be a court ordering the BNP to accept someone as a member who was patently not suitable to be a member.

The danger for any party which cannot decide its own membership by requiring members to adhere to the fundamental principles for which its stands is that it could quickly become a meaningless political shell. In the case of the BNP suppose numbers of the political left and ethnic minorities large enough to swamp the existing BNP membership applied for membership. If the BNP had no way of refusing them membership, the party could soon be taken over by the incomers who could overthrow the leadership and change the party’ policies utterly.

That is the way only the BNP is being treated at present , but any party could find themselves in the same predicament if their policies do not meet with the approval of those in power. At present the powerful are disciples of political correctness, but politics can move very rapidly and no one can be certain that their politics will not become the target for criminalisation and marginalisation. Moreover, where an ideology is involved, the ideology can alter so that what was acceptable within it to a follower may well become unacceptable when it changes. A good example comes from modern liberalism. Until around 1980 the liberal left approach to the consequences of mass immigration to Britain was assimilation; in a year or two it switched to multiculturalism, a very different thing which has similarities at least at the conceptual level to the idea of separate development in Apartheid South Africa.

The Electoral Commission

Successful court challenges by the ECHR are not the only legal obstacle to political parties deciding their own policies. There is the Electoral Commission to contend with. A political party which wishes to put up candidates in a UK election has to register with the Commission. That registration is not automatic and can be refused if the name or emblem is deemed “obscene or offensive “ . (http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/107694/to-names-rp.pdf). It is all too easy to see anything non-pc being refused by the Commission who would inevitably point to the many legal restrictions which already exists on what may be said legally and use those as the basis for a refusal to register.

There are also some prohibited words in the Electoral Commission’s lexicon which could not be used automatically or in certain formats which could curtail political expression in the registration of parties, for example, English Party is forbidden under category 2 words (http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/107701/doc-prohibited-rp.pdf) .

The Returning Officer (who supervises the administration of an election) can also refuse a party label on a ballot paper if they deem it inappropriate.

In view of the political dominance of the political correct and the expressed attitude of official bodies such as the ECHR and

the courts towards party membership and the values of a party which challenges political correctness, it is reasonable to assume that any party which transgresses the politically correct limits would fail to be registered by the Electoral Commission or pass the scrutiny of the Returning Officer, for example, parties called England for the English or the Anti-Immigration League. It might even prove impossible for parties in the Celtic Fringe to run under banners such as The English in Scotland or Protect the English in Wales

Independent candidates

Independent candidates do not need to register with the Electoral Commission. However, this has the disadvantage for candidates of not being able to described themselves as anything other than Independent on the ballot paper (http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/electoral_commission_pdf_file/0009/83169/UKPGE-Nomination-Forms-Final.pdf ). To use any other label candidates have to pretend to be a party and register themselves as such with the Electoral Commission with all that entails in time, money (there is a £150 registration fee) and organisation . It also leaves them open to the same pc objections to labels as genuine parties. Indeed, the censorship of candidate descriptions is likely to be even more wide ranging than for individuals pretending to be a party than for genuine parties , because the banning of an individual candidate would be far less likely to attract media attention or have the financial wherewithal to take court action to challenge any ban.

The Electoral Commission also control what are known as third party campaigners . These are individual or corporate bodies (including registered political parties) who can be campaigners (http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/105936/intro-campaigner-npc.pdf) in support of parties, individuals or policies without being candidates in an election.

There are a considerable and growing number of elections in the UK – Westminster, local government, devolved assemblies, elected Mayors and police commissioners . Consequently, the Electoral Commission has the potential to exercise a very powerful influence on British politics through determining what parties are called.

Laws to silence opinion

In addition to the restrictions imposed on candidates political speech, writing and action (for anyone) is heavily circumscribed by a depressingly large number of laws which, whether originally intended to suppress political views or not , are being used to censor views deemed to be non-political with ever increasing frequency. The most likely to be applied is the 1986 Public Order Act sections 4 and 5 and the Communications Act 2003 section 127.

“Public Order Act 1986

Section 4 Fear or provocation of violence.

(1)A person is guilty of an offence if he—

(a)uses towards another person threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or

(b)distributes or displays to another person any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

with intent to cause that person to believe that immediate unlawful violence will be used against him or another by any person, or to provoke the immediate use of unlawful violence by that person or another, or whereby that person is likely to believe that such violence will be used or it is likely that such violence will be provoked.

(2)An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is distributed or displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the other person is also inside that or another dwelling.

(3)A constable may arrest without warrant anyone he reasonably suspects is committing an offence under this section.

(4)A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or both.

4 A Intentional harassment, alarm or distress.

(1)A person is guilty of an offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, he—

(a)uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or

(b)displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.

(2)An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the person who is harassed, alarmed or distressed is also inside that or another dwelling.

(3)It is a defence for the accused to prove—

(a)that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to believe that the words or behaviour used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation displayed, would be heard or seen by a person outside that or any other dwelling, or

(b)that his conduct was reasonable.

(4)A constable may arrest without warrant anyone he reasonably suspects is committing an offence under this section.

(5)A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or both.]

5 Harassment, alarm or distress.

(1)A person is guilty of an offence if he—

(a)uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or

(b)displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

(2)An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the other person is also inside that or another dwelling.

(3)It is a defence for the accused to prove—

(a)that he had no reason to believe that there was any person within hearing or sight who was likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress, or

(b)that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to believe that the words or behaviour used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation displayed, would be heard or seen by a person outside that or any other dwelling, or

(c)that his conduct was reasonable.

(4)A constable may arrest a person without warrant if—

(a)he engages in offensive conduct which [F2a] constable warns him to stop, and

(b)he engages in further offensive conduct immediately or shortly after the warning.

(5)In subsection (4) “offensive conduct” means conduct the constable reasonably suspects to constitute an offence under this section, and the conduct mentioned in paragraph (a) and the further conduct need not be of the same nature.

(6)A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.6

The Communications Act 2003

Section 127 Improper use of public electronic communications network

(1)A person is guilty of an offence if he—

(a)sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or

(b)causes any such message or matter to be so sent.

(2)A person is guilty of an offence if, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another, he—

(a)sends by means of a public electronic communications network, a message that he knows to be false,

(b)causes such a message to be sent; or

(c)persistently makes use of a public electronic communications network.

(3)A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both.

In addition these Acts may be deployed :

Malicious Communications Act 1988 section 1 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/27/content as amended by Section 43 Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2001/16/contents

Postal Services Act 2000 section 85 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/26/contents).

There may be other laws which are used to specifically hamper free expression which is deemed politically incorrect, , but those I have cited give the flavour of the current powers available to those with power in Britain to intimidate the public and control public debate. They all have one very dangerous thing in common: the Acts are so broadly drawn that they are an open invitation to those with power to shut down dissent. The idea that people can assign an objective value to words such as menacing, threatening, abusive or insulting is simply wrong. Even more to the point, if words or images may be deemed criminal because they are merely abusive or threatening, anything contentious to the mind of another could be held to be criminal.

In addition to the considerable restrictions on free expression already described, there are civil laws allowing actions for libel and slander, court orders prohibiting the publication or public discussion of specific subjects (breach of which risks imprisonment for contempt of court), restrictions placed by the Official Secrets Act (which applies whether or not a person has signed the Act) and criminal offences relating to obscenity, blasphemy and libel (the last three are so rarely used they are practically obsolete, but they are live laws which could be utilised if no other law would do).

Nothing non-pc is safe

Where does all this leave us? The

problem is that no one can be sure what would be treated as criminal by the police and the prosecuting authority the Crown Prosecution Service. A person could look at non-pc speech and writing which has not resulted in prosecution and prosecutions for what has been judged illegal and try to analyse what will be deemed officially beyond the Pale but be none the wiser. That is for two reasons: first, the boundaries of what is deemed criminal are constantly expanding especially with reference to “hate speech” and, second, there is no consistency in the investigation and prosecution of similar statements.

A few examples to demonstrate the difficulty in knowing what is likely to result in police action. Negro was the polite word for a black person for well over a century. Gradually over the past half century it was superseded by black, African-American, Afro-Caribbean or even African as blacks asserted their identity. But negro continued to be used. It was not considered

a racist term, although a bit old fashioned in much the same way that homosexual rather than gay now seems slightly anachronistic. In 2011 the Liverpool FC forward Luis Suarez (white) repeatedly referred to the Man U fullback Patrice Evra (black) as a negro, (actually its Spanish equivalent negre). This resulted not in criminal charges but disciplinary action by the Football Association who fined and banned him for eight matches for racial abuse (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/liverpool/8969738/Liverpools-Luis-Suarez-guilty-of-racially-abusing-Patrice-Evra-live.html). Although there was no police action, the message the Suarez case sent to the public was negro is now a term of racial abuse which could result in action being taken against its user. If another case comes to public notice I would be most surprised if a police investigation is not begun even if no criminal charges are brought.

Now move forward to a recent case which did result in criminal charges. BNP member Michael Coleman has just been give an eight month suspended sentence with 240 hours of community service (unpaid work) for publishing racist articles on his blog:

“ The 46-year-old was reported to police after two blogs he wrote in response to last summer’s London riots appeared online.

In them, he said the riots were a perfect example of ‘the difference in personality, perceptions and values of people of the darker races and ourselves’.

And he accused Stoke-on-Trent City Council of ‘flooding this city with Muslims and blacks, a complete population replacement programme. Darkies in, whites out’.

Police were called by Labour city councillor Joy Garner, below, who had been asked to read the blogs by a member of the public. (http://www.thisisstaffordshire.co.uk/Stoke-Trent-BNP-leader-Michael-Coleman-guilty/story-16839343-detail/story.html).

Leave aside the word “darkies” for the moment. Coleman’s message is a straightforward political protest against the most profound act of treason which is the permitting of mass immigration. If he was convicted for that protest it is unambiguous censorship for political purposes. The prosecution is sending the message to the public that protest against immigration and its consequences is being criminalised.

If it is solely “darkies” which has led to the conviction, and the report does not suggest that it is, then

the-powers-that-be through the courts and prosecution authorities are controlling language in a manner reminiscent of the Soviet Union or Red China. “Darkies” may again be an anachronistic term , but it was never considered racist as such when it was widely used. Often it was bestowed on someone black in the same way that a man called white would end up being called “Chalky”.

Even liberals are beginning to get uneasy about the way that day after day new cases as threats of prosecution or actual prosecutions are applied to people in situations which appear ever more extreme. Take Brendan O’Neill of the Daily Telegraph on Coleman. He pays ritual pc obeisance to the “horror” of Coleman’s views and the use of “darkies”, calls him a moron, but then writes

The councillor who kick-started the legal action against Coleman said something very interesting – he said the reason Coleman had to be punished and turned into a criminal for writing those blog posts is because the views they expressed are “not acceptable to the overwhelming majority of local people”. That is true; the vast majority of Britons find racist ideas and language disgusting. But are we really going to start threatening with imprisonment people who express opinions that the “overwhelming majority” consider to be unacceptable? Will that include radical political views, edgy social arguments, harebrained religious beliefs? The fact that in Britain in 2012 a man has been given a suspended jail sentence and 240 hours’ community service for saying something that is offensive to the “overwhelming majority” should give us all serious pause for thought, and make us ask what gives us the right to slam Putin’s Russia for likewise banging up punkish singers who, according to polls, also offended an “overwhelming majority” of Russians.” (http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/brendanoneill2/100183130/darkies-is-a-disgusting-word-but-people-shouldnt-be-given-suspended-jail-sentences-for-saying-it/).

Of course, the “vast majority of Britons” do not find what liberals now call racist ideas and language disgusting (effectively any preference for one racial, national or ethnic group over another) . Many might not feel comfortable with the word “darkies”, but that “vast majority of Britons ” will have varying degrees of sympathy with the idea that mass immigration has changed the country for the worse and is a form of colonisation. But such expressed thoughts would now appear to be illegal. The case of Emma West falls into this category. Miss West was recorded on a camera phone during a tram ride complaining to a racially mixed group of passengers about the effects of mass immigration. There was a bit of effing and blinding but there was no gross racist abuse , just a complaint that her country had been utterly changed through mass immigration (http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/emma-west-immigration-and-the-liberal-totalitarian-state). She was arrested after the video was placed on YouTube, held against her will in a top security prison (the authorities claimed it was for her own protection even though Miss West said she did not want to be protected) and is being subjected to an unconscionable delay before she is brought to trial – it is already 11 months since she was charged, the case has been adjourned three times and no new trial date set (http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2012/09/08/emma-west-trial-delayed-for-the-third-time/).

One last case. The England and Chelsea footballer John Terry was charged with racially aggravated public order offences when he was alleged to have called the black QPR defender Anton Ferdinand “a f**king black c**t” during a Premiership match between Chelsea and QPR in 2011. Terry’s defence was that he had not called Ferdinand that but thought Ferdinand had accused him of using the words and said to him “I didn’t call you a f**king black c**t”.

A court accepted this version and found him not guilty in July this year, but that was not the end of the matter. Once again the Football Association (FA) acted and effectively tried Terry on the same charges, found him guilty and fined him heavily and banned him for four matches. This was a very sinister development because Terry was adjudged guilty by the FA regardless of the context of the words he uttered. The FA found that the uttering of words to deny having said them with an intent to abuse is an offence if the words are deemed racist. Most dangerous. It could in principle mean that a writer of fiction could be held to be racist because he creates a racist character. That of course is simply the FA and not a court making the judgement, but it at best creates a public mood of fear of saying anything contentious which could possibly be construed as racist. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/chelsea/9568184/John-Terry-found-guilty-of-racially-abusing-QPRs-Anton-Ferdinand-in-FA-hearing-and-handed-four-match-ban.html).

There is a further problem with the increasing numbers of prosecutions being undertaken for alleged racially-aggravated offences. The prosecuting authorities and the courts do not operate an even-handed approach. The most outrageous example I have come across is the treatment by four Somali girls of a white woman Rhea Page. The Somalis viciously attacked Miss Page -a video of the attack can be found here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2070562/Muslim-girl-gang-kicked-Rhea-Page-head-yelling-kill-white-slag-FREED.html#ixzz1flw8TY6p. Despite the fact that Somalis were screaming “white slag” and other racist terms at her the judge found the attack was not racially motivated and, amazingly, did not impose prison sentences on the Somalis.

Despite the uncertainty and double standards , it is reasonable to think that the following would leave a party or individual open to criminal prosecution :

1. Any statement which claimed that mass immigration was an unalloyed ill.

2. Any statement which claimed that the permitting of mass immigration is the most fundamental form of treason.

3. Any statement which claimed that mass immigration is a form of conquest by means other than force of arms.

4. Any statement which advocated the forced expulsion of immigrants.

5. Any statement which claimed that an ethnic or racial minority has cultural values and practices which are incompatible with British society.

6. Any statement which claimed that a racial or social minority commits more crime than the native British population.

7 . Any statement which claimed that a religion favoured by an ethnic minority is antipathetic to British society.

8. The use of the words black, brown or yellow as an adjective where it is attached to a statement which is critical of a person.

9. Any statement claiming or suggesting that there are biological differences between races which mean that different races have innately different capacities.

Race is undoubtedly the prime driver of prosecutions for simply expressing opinions, but increasing police attention is being given to statements about homosexuals (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1270364/Christian-preacher-hooligan-charge-saying-believes-homosexuality-sin.html and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2206108/Daniel-Thomas-Footballer-posted-homophobic-Tweet-Tom-Daley-charged.html)) and recently there have been swelling attempts to bring abuse of the disabled into the police investigation net.

But it is not only overtly politically incorrect statements which have attracted the attention of the police and the courts. Once it is allowed that words deemed insulting or upsetting can be criminalised, nothing but nothing is beyond the reach of the law. In the political sphere this can stop criticism of a politician. Recently it was revealed that two MPs and two peers reported twitter abuse to the police (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/internet/9558464/Two-MPs-and-two-peers-go-to-police-over-Twitter-abuse.html). The revelation of these attempts by politicians to have members of the public resulted in this statement by Jeremy Browne, the junior Home Office minister: “The Government are not seeking to criminalise bad manners, unkind comments, or idiotic views.”

But he went on: “The Government are reforming measures to tackle antisocial behaviour, regardless of whether it occurs offline or online.

“To continue to support professionals to help and protect victims, we are introducing simpler and more effective powers that, where appropriate, agencies can use flexibly to deal with antisocial individuals who cause misery and distress to others.”

The Crown Prosecution Service is drawing up the first guidelines on social media abuse, following concerns that too many people were being prosecuted for making one-off offensive comments that were intended to be funny and not directed at specific individuals.

I think we can all see where that is goings, straight down the path to censorship of political complaint. The present reality is any statement whether spoken, written or broadcast which is not anodyne and written in cautiously polite language potentially puts its creator at risk of prosecution.

No free expression, no democracy

In a true democracy there can be no restriction on speech because the full range of political opinions and policies must be available to be debated and implemented. Authoritarian states can only survive if free expression is crushed. Make free expression an absolute legal right and no dictatorship could be established; bring free expression into a dictatorship and it will dissolve the dictatorship.

John Milton famously and eloquently identified the power of free debate three and a half centuries ago: ‘And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose upon the earth, so truth be in the field [and] we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and falsehood grapple; who ever knew truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter…’ [Milton – Areogapitica].

Anybody putting forward a case for censorship needs to explain why they cannot let “truth and falsehood” contend . I have never met anyone who could provide a meaningful reason. Their

arguments are always once removed from the issue of free expression: its denial is always justified in terms of the imagined hurt, whether to feelings or violence, the disapproved of words will cause not on the grounds that the words are true or false.

The Leveller leader John Lilburne never ceased urging people in his struggles with the Parliamentary leaders in the English civil war to resist tyranny with the words “What they do to me today they may do to you tomorrow”. That is a maxim for all people of any time who wish to remain free.

9 responses to “Political speech and action in Britain: What is legally permitted ?

  1. I am told (by the same people who I argue about Sean Gabb’s legal status with) that Robert Henderson is a bad man – and, therefore one should not agree with him on anything.

    Now Mr Henderson may be a very bad man (indeed a racist) – but that does not mean that when he says “1+1=2” and others dispute this – that one should not agree with him. And make that agreement plain.

    Either one believes in freedom of association or one does not – and freedom of association must include the freedom not to associate. To “discriminate” as a private individual or private association.

    And either one believes in freedom of speech or one does not. If a political party (such as the BNP) want to have in its Constitution that “fat, bald half Jewish half Irish people by the name of Paul Marks should be gassed” that there is their right.

    As is it is their right to exclude from membership fat, bald, middle aged men, of Jewish and Irish ancestry by the name of “Paul Marks” (although why I would want to join the BNP I can not guess).

    If they actually tried to put people into gas chambers I would object (rather violently) – but they have a right to suggest any policy they like.

    And, by the way, the BNP have not actually suggested gassing anyone – whereas P.C. heros such as H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw did suggest gassing tens of millions of human beings (I suppose any opinon is O.K. – as long as one is a Fabian).

    The whole corpus of anti freedom of speech and anti freedom of association “law” built up in the United Kingdom since 1965 is terrible – any libertarian who will not tell the truth about this is not worthy of the name.

    By the way……

    In the process of opposing the BNP (yes – opposing them, after all I passionatly reject them and their policies) I quoted them – and that action on my part led to a six month invesitgation of me (with a tape recorder sitting on the very table I am typing this) as I was questioned.

    You see in the course of attacking the BNP I had used a “forbidden” word – and to use the word at all (even to oppose racism) leads to investigation (or worse).

    It is like the blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

    Where people are executed for saying……

    Well for saying words that the court never sees or hears – because to repeat the supposedly spoken words (even in court) would lead to the lawyer also being executed.

    So people are killed for “saying very bad things about Muhammed”. “What specifically did they say?”

    “Sorry we can not tell you – or we would have to be executed as well”.

    Is that the future of the United Kingdom?

  2. Sorry–without wanting to pry–when you say “tape recorder on the table”–you meanthe blubottles–is that right?

    • Actually a lawyer (not mine – someone paid to investigate me)rather than police officers, – but it came close to the that.

      It could have been worse – the man assigned to investigage me was actually interested in the truth.

      If he had been the sort of person who (for example) takes my arguement about why one should not (repeat not) give in to passion and kill one’s political foes – and just decided to stich me up (by quoting out of context) as someone who wanted to kill my political foes (see a post on this very site) I would typeing this from prison.

  3. Unlikely on the basis of out-of-context quotes when the original source material is available for the defence. I agree things are not good but let us not get carried away. Accurate perceptions are the foundation of strategy.

  4. A good, and well deserved, slap down.

    I was getting paranoid – my apologies.

  5. Typo. The heading ‘British political parties can longer be what they want to be’ should be ‘British political parties can NO longer be what they want to be’, surely?

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  7. Quite correct James. A typo. I have amended it on my sites. Thanks for pointing it out.