Freedom of speech is our most important privilege

I RECOGNISE the good intentions of the leaders of the four political parties in writing to you last week (H&H letters April 17) and I strongly share their anti BNP sentiment. However I believe it is important that readers understand that not all of their

I RECOGNISE the good intentions of the leaders of the four political parties in writing to you last week (H&H letters April 17) and I strongly share their anti BNP sentiment. However I believe it is important that readers understand that not all of their elected representatives share this view.

I differ over two points. Firstly because I believe freedom of speech to be one of the most important rights we have - possibly the most important. It is something that must be protected at all costs.

Our leaders may say they are not attacking the BNP's right to make their statements but only the Ham&High's decision, but in my mind any sort of prejudice against a person or organisation based on what they say is an attack on freedom of speech.

Thankfully we have mostly won the right for good people to say nice things. The new frontier in the battle for free speech is for the right of bad people to say unpleasant things. But this right is important too, because universal human rights should be just that - universal, not taken away because we do not like the person wielding their right, or what they are using their rights to do.


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Once we start down the slippery slope of allowing people the right only to say certain things, where do we stop? Who is to be the judge of what is and isn't permitted?

Moreover only by debating the BNP in the open can these ideas be crushed, and only by pushing them underground will they survive - by being given the cool edginess of being taboo. Putting barriers in the way of the BNP that you would not put in the way of other parties isn't just immoral, it's bad tactics.

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My second objection is that by singling out the BNP for special treatment is rather missing the point. The BNP are abhorrent not because they are the BNP but because they are racist xenophobes. Racism and xenophobia are abhorrent no matter who does it. By turning the BNP into this bogeyman we can all hate just for existing, we risk losing track of the real argument and open the back door for other people to say equally awful things without censure.

I won't say well done to the Ham&High, because you haven't done anything to be proud of, but you were right to treat the BNP as any other political party - because that is all they are. And you were right to give them the freedom to speak their mind - even though what they say is garbage.

Cllr Fred Carver

(Lib Dem) Cantelowes Ward

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