Labour should back bill on free speech

Labour is wrong to oppose free speech legislation (Free speech bill gives legal protection to hate speech, says Labour, 12 Julie). Preventing appalling and obnoxious views from being heard is counterproductive. Does anyone really believe that those who hold such views are going to cease doing so by being prevented from expressing them, or that recruits are gained by their expression as opposed to those already holding deep prejudices?

Censorship tends to engender a sense of martyrdom, which helps to gain recruits from among those who think it must be worth joining far-right parties. The only way to combat racism and antisemitism is by taking them on in debate and demonstrating their falsities and unacceptability. I recall the outcry against the BBC for inviting the BNP’s Nick Griffin on to Question Time, but his views were demolished and he disappeared from sight. A refusal to take on the debate should only be supported by those who feel unable to sustain it.
Michael Meadowcroft




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