Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Friday, 20 February 2009

Up Your Game, Shami

I think I used to fancy Shami Chakrabarti at one point. But I'm going off her now.

For those who don't know, she is Director of Liberty, the pressure group which is supposed to protect civil liberties and promote human rights. As its leader, Chakrabarti should be leading the charge against this government's attempts to dismantle our rights to free speech.

Chakrabarti was interviewed on Radio 4's PM programme this evening, apropos of the Home Secretary's decisions to ban first Geert Wilders (Dutch MP) and then Fred Phelps and his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper (anti-gay campaigners) from entry into the UK.

As I highlighted on this blog yesterday these cases speak volumes for the government's attitude towards our freedom. They are suppressing the message that these people want to bring to the UK because they do not want to hear it, and they don't think we should hear it either. It stinks. Personally I don't care if the government wants to put its fingers in its ears and shouting "Na-na-na-not-listening", but they have no business covering our ears too.

I was expecting Chakrabarti to stand up for the rights of people to express opinion, and for ours to hear it. But she stopped short.

On the plus side she talked about the "high principle" that "free speech is the lifeblood of the free world". But then she went onto to talk about the "practical realities" of public order problems that might arise if someone came here and said "hateful things". Police resourcing has to be considered. In other words, the mob can rule. She then went onto to talk about the counter-productive result of this kind of ban, in that through being banned they can gain more publicity than they'd have got if they'd been allowed in.

What a cop out. You're either in favour of free speech or you're not. Free speech is not a tactical nicety to be granted to someone just because they'll cause you more trouble if they're denied it. The danger of "elevating crackpots to martyrdom status" as she put it is no consideration.

You were right the first time, Shami. Free speech is a high principle, and one the government should protect. Whatever the cost.

God Almighty. If we can't even rely on groups like Liberty to defend our rights to freedom of expression. we are well and truly stuffed.

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