FREE SPEECH: Why UKIP Needs A Free Speech Spokesman
Editor’s Note: The below is a discussion paper that has been presented to the leadership and NEC for consideration by Kipper Central. Please feel free to comment.
The Case For A Free Speech & Civil Liberties Spokesman
Freedom of conscience, speech and the press is under unprecedented attack in Britain today. Many of us are aware of the recent cases of detention and exclusion from the country of figures such as Martin Sellner, Brittany Pettibone and Lauren Southern. Also, high profile cases of exclusion from social media platforms such as Twitter of figures such as Tommy Robinson are well known as are cases of ‘no platforming’ in our universities etc. ‘Count Dankula’ is facing a custodial sentence for making a YouTube video.
It must be borne in mind that these are only incidents which have received relatively large amounts of publicity certainly in alternative media circles. Many other incidents occur daily with little or no reporting with people often facing severe penalties merely for expressing an opinion.
This is underpinned by a broad-spectrum cultural assault on anything that deviates from an accepted ideological agenda. Recently, a UKIP Assembly Member in Wales, Gareth Bennett, was barred from speaking for saying that transgenderism is “not normal”. Boris Johnson was slapped down by the Commons Speaker, John Bercow for an innocuous remark that Mr Bercow described as “sexist”. So, this assault is not just taking place in our schools, workplaces or social settings but in our democratic assemblies as well.
Whether or not you agree with Mr Sellner, Ms Pettibone, Ms Southern, Mr Robinson, Mr Bennett or Mr Johnson is irrelevant to the fact that Cultural Marxist censorship is a cancer that is deep in the bones of our democracy.
UKIP is a Party committed constitutionally to democratic libertarian principles:
2.5 The Party is a democratic, libertarian Party and will espouse policies which:
• promote and encourage those who aspire to improve their personal situation and those who seek to be self-reliant, whilst providing protection for those genuinely in need;
• favour the ability of individuals to make decisions in respect of themselves;
• seek to diminish the role of the State;
• lower the burden of taxation on individuals and businesses;
• ensure proper control over the United Kingdom’s borders;
• strengthen and guarantee the essential, traditional freedoms and liberties of all people in the United Kingdom.
In order to fulfil the highlighted obligation, we must take the systematic erosion of our right to free speech seriously. We must also remember that this attack does not just come from the state, be that the British or European one, but also from the mainstream media which alienates certain points of view and deems them ‘beyond the pale’. One obvious example is the treatment of the criticism of Islam which is deemed implicitly to be always ‘racist’.
It is also worth noting that this is a ‘cross-department’ issue and would cover areas not covered by our current spokesman team, for example, media and culture do not fit well into any one current brief.
UKIP’s Unique Position
UKIP is unique amoung all other political parties in its commitment to democratic libertarianism as outlined above. This also imposes on it a unique obligation to defend our free speech and our civil liberties. Other parties or prominent individuals have, from time to time, raised related issues in an opportunistic fashion, for example, David Davis from the Conservatives and Shami Chakrabati from Labour, however, this fleeting concern has soon passed and no other Party has the constitutional commitment and obligation that we have.
The current spokesman team comprises of several posts which have been created to indicate a unique commitment by UKIP to policy areas which define our identity as a Party and set us ‘apart from the crowd’ so to speak, Families and Children, for example. I do not see why this issue should not be treated any differently.
Essentially, I would see the core brief of this spokesman to raise awareness of the current onslaught against our free speech and civil liberties and liaise with other spokesmen where there are free speech implications.
One example of this would be the issue of ‘hate crime’ which while clearly being well within the Home Affairs brief clearly also has free speech implications. Safe spaces, while clearly being well within the Education brief, also have free speech implications.
However, as I have pointed out, attacks on free speech within the media sphere, for example, the exclusion of Mr Robinson from Twitter, is not covered by any of the current spokesperson team.
In regard to policy, the main focus should be to develop policy aimed at ‘rolling back’ these attacks and ensure future guarantees against further attempts to attack free speech by either the state or non-state corporate actors such as the media.
I cannot think of any other time during my adult political life when the issues mentioned above have been drawn into such sharp focus. In response to the situation, we have seen a countervailing response such as the recent rally at Speakers Corner in support of Tommy Robinson reading Martin Sellner’s speech.
It is an issue that has the power to connect with many voter demographics and build a broad support base for flagship UKIP policies. A recent petition to repeal ‘hate crime’ laws in favour of free speech passed 14,000 signatures earlier this year.
UKIP is uniquely placed to both address these issues and provide solutions which I believe will meet with popular support. Indeed, it has a moral obligation to do just that and the creation of this post is the only way to send a clear message about the seriousness with which we treat these issues and to emphasise our unique commitment to democratic libertarianism as a Party.