March for Free Expression

The next phase

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

What next

The statement of principle at the start of this campaign calls twice on "our elected representatives". If we are going to get effective change, we need to bring the imperative of freedom of expression home to them. At the moment, the main organisations who are lobbying on this issue do so with a view to introducing new restrictions on freedom.

So we propose drawing up a detailed manifesto and sending it to every member of the House of Commons. We will create and maintain a public database that shows which MPs agree with the manifesto and which do not.

We can then lobby the ones who do not.

Going further, there will be some by-elections during the life of this Parliament. It seems realistic, based on the experience of this rally, to seek to raise funds and identify suitable candidates for any constituency in which the likely winner will not sign the manifesto. Let's continue to keep this free of party politics. If we have a Labour safe seat, our candidate will take the Labour whip on all issues except those that involve freedom of expression. If it's a Tory seat, they'll take the Tory whip, and so on. Electors will be able to support freedom of expression without compromising their party affiliations.

So, what might be in the manifesto?

We would seek a constitutional protection for freedom of expression in the UK, lobby against attempts to restrict freedoms by the EU and the UN. (We have to work with like-minded people overseas.)

Blasphemy (common) law is wrong in itself, reduces our freedom of expression and creates inequity that can be used to back calls for new restrictions on our freedoms, such as the Incitement to Religious Hatred Bill. So we need the abolition of the offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel. Other people are already doing this, so we need to work with them and add to rather than duplicate their campaigns.

The Lords Spiritual should be abolished. Again, these create inequity and the last thing we need is representatives of other religions in the Lords, legislating for restrictions of our freedoms.

In general, there should be no special privileges for religions of any kind. We would seek the disestablishment of the Church of England.

In fact, there should be no special privilges for any group. All legislation that bans forms of speech should be repealed. This includes incitement to racial hatred.

When the police told The Spectator that they couldn't guarantee the safety of its staff, after a cartoon was published on their website, they were not telling the truth. In fact, they wouldn't protect the Spectator's staff. They protect lots of people - government ministers, members of the Royal family, diplomats and civil servants and others. They choose not to protect law-abiding people whose lives have been threatened. The consequence was that the cartoon was withdrawn. Instead, the police should protect anyone who is threatened and they should pursue the aggressors remorselessly, using all means at their disposal.

If a bounty is put on someone's life by a person in another country, where extradition treaties exist, these should be used to bring the bounty-offerer to justice. Where extradition treaties do not exist, the incentivisation of murder should be treated as a crime against humanity, with an international court to try them, and diplomatic consequences for any country harbouring such people.

12 Comments:

Blogger publicansdecoy said...

There's a lot of ideas here which I'm not sure everyone who came along on the MFE would agree with. Beyond the comments on this blog (which often degenerate into petty bickering and side arguments) is there any other way that those who came along on the MFE can discuss and contribute to this campaign going forward?

How about holding a public meeting/debate for anyone who wants to attend to specifically discuss these issues?

2:32 pm  
Blogger Jen said...

I think any contact with politicians should include a copy of Labi Siffre's speech.
Great stuff

3:00 pm  
Blogger anton said...

What about the plight of muslim apostates in Britain?

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1470584,00.html

6:32 pm  
Blogger Polish Solidarity with Denmark said...

You have my support on this, Voltaire.
My God does not need the riot police to protect Him.

7:24 pm  
Blogger aeneas said...

Voltaire. In a previous post, after the march, I suggested that people vote for any other Party instead of Labour. I said this because I believed that, as the Party of Government, Labour was responsible for promoting legislation that I felt is detrimental freedom of speech. However, I now think that your proposal is much better than mine and I therefore retract my earlier statement. We don't want to alienate Labour MPs who are potential supporters. Your idea is very good, as we do need to make consideration of our views important to Parliament.

Keep up the good work and keep the ideas for action flowing.

7:47 pm  
Blogger Sir Percy said...

I would like to suggest that any future discussion should also include the government's controversial promotion of "faith schools" which are, by very their very nature, divisive.

We've already seen the way that that this divides people in Northern Ireland. I cannot believe that we are about to repeat the same mistake here in Britain.

If our children don't mix from an early age, what hope is there for the future?

I don't wish to see the Balkanisation of our country

9:07 pm  
Blogger Polish Solidarity with Denmark said...

Sir Percy,
"I would like to suggest that any future discussion should also include the government's controversial promotion of "faith schools" which are, by very their very nature, divisive."
You have my absolute backing, but only as long as the secular, state-run school are truly faith-free and do not apply double standards (discriminating against Christians like my daughter's school does).

10:16 pm  
Blogger Pub Philosopher said...

So why didn't the Spectator support and publicise our rally?

12:00 pm  
Blogger Will B said...

Is Northern Ireland not part of the UK Sir Percy?

Peter, Disestablishment of the CoE won't happen. the establishment is full of Christians who won't vote for it. Oh and on the Lords spirtual thing... Would such a move mean also that people with religious beliefs would not be able to legislate for the people?

10:41 pm  
Blogger Sir Percy said...

Is Northern Ireland not part of the UK Sir Percy?

Good point Will and a very sad example of just how bad things can get when people are segregated on religious grounds.

I really don't want to see any more of that rubbish here on the mainland but Bliar & co seem to have other ideas...

9:38 pm  
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2:38 pm  

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