Is it me or has this country become a scarier place over the past week or so. Scarier that is if you believe as Churchill said that “I don’t agree with your views but I will fight to the death for your right to express them.” Already we have had the Prime Minister bewailing the fact that we have to tolerate people with extremist views, who stay within the law. He intends to do something about it, which is even scarier.
Perhaps he would prefer them to act outside the law? The fact that they don’t and express their views or opinions from behind the safety of freedom of speech seems in the eyes of the PM, to cast them as cowards. Rather in the way that my border collie laments the fact the cowardly squirrels climb trees to avoid her tender embraces.
It would be helpful to know what are extremist views? If by way of example, I urge people to violently overthrow the British State, then I am pretty sure that there is a law that I would fall foul of. Thus I could be arrested for incitement or conspiracy to do something or other. No time to look up the exact reference, but we have this base covered already.
If I say that I think its time that we got rid of democracy and had a totalitarian state and that I intended to form a political party and stand at elections, then, though you could view this as an extremist position, it is me simply expressing my views, which I am able to do as we live in a country where freedom of speech, the right to express one’s views and to hear those contrary to your own are protected. Actually currently they form part of the much maligned Human Rights Act 1998. Until that date we relied on our freedom of expression implicitly as opposed to explicitly.
So how will he define extremist views? it seems to me that the government, encouraged by members of the establishment is seeking to restrict some of the basic freedoms and rights that we have enjoyed and fought so hard for (often initiated outside parliament) It seems to be that under cover of clamping down on Islamic fundamentalism and other assorted terrorist threats, other restrictions will be sneaked in.
If I heard her correctly, Teresa May said in an interview with John Humphries on the Today programme that there would be the creation of a set of principles known as British values and it would be against these that extremist views would be measured. This would be a dangerous precedent to set and I can only hope that I misheard her. For how does one define British values in a way that it can be incorporated into legislation? One would assume that one of the first casualties will be tolerance, perhaps the most readily identifiable of the values that we hold dear. For if you are not to allow people to express extremist views within the law, that to my mind makes you pretty intolerant.
As I indicated, I may of misheard, in which case we will see how things develop. However, I am pretty certain that I heard a Conservative MP call for restrictions to be placed on “Secular extremists” who interfere with the role religion plays in the State, on the Today programme this morning. Scary stuff, but surely I must have misheard? But if not, does that mean I have to be polite to Jehovahs witnesses?