Some people argue there are no limits to free speech, but the law and unwritten constitution does set boundaries. Simon Woolley argued that the BNP cannot be allowed to operate outside these limits
The BNP and their supporters must have a good old laugh every time defenders of our liberal democracy try to defend the indefensible. The liberals argue: ‘I hate the BNP, but however loathsome they are we mustn’t close down debate.’ Or they say: ‘I disagree with what they say, but I’ll defend to the death their right to say it.’
And so the pseudo-political debate is framed, not about what the BNP stand for, or what they stand against but simply about their right, in a modern society, to say it.
It is of course a cul-de-sac debate which the BNP can never lose so as long as they stay within a nat’s hair of the incitement to racial hatred law. Moreover, many of the BNP’s detractors quickly become their defenders when discussing the almost sacred cow that is freedom of speech.
There are two principal debates we should focus ourselves on in regards to the BNP. First and foremost, the ideological debate. The battle for ideas. What type of society do we want? How can we all get on with each other? How much immigration can this nation support? How do we fairly dispense limited public resources, particularly in a recession? Who should come first, and why? How do we create real opportunity for all? What is our national identity?
Legitimate questions that are rarely framed without the hysteria and hyperbole that polarises the debate. Having spineless politicians, who pander to a bigoted agenda rather than face it down, means that important questions are not properly explored because the debate is too infected with prejudice and fear.
But if we park the ideological debate for a moment, there is another area of discussion which has hardly been discussed before the Equality and Human Rights Commission raised it by challenging the legality of the BNP constitution.
This question goes to the very core of what are the limits to our democracy, and how much are we fight to uphold and protect them.
Over centuries our unwritten constitution has given us a framework for our democracy. From Magna Carta to the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, our democracy has evolved to reflect our changing times. This framework gives us a democracy which, for all its limitations, seeks to balance individual freedoms with fairness and tolerance.
More importantly, anyone wanting to play a part in the governance of this country must subscribe to these rules. And for good reason. As absurd as the proposition may sound, our democracy would not accommodate the extreme prejudices of the Taliban, not just because the British voters wouldn’t accept it, but also because the Taliban’s imposition on women, -that they remain veiled and uneducated for example-, would be against our law.
If our values and the laws that help enshrine them are to mean anything then surely it is right to challenge any political party that so blatantly flouts our nation’s basic principals?
Surely it is a basic principal for any British citizen to join any political party either because they subscribe to their values, and or they may want to join to be a part of a change within it.
At the moment a Black person is powerless to democratically change the BNP’s constitution or their policies that so blatantly seek to discriminate against them. One of the more unpalatable policies would be the right for British employers not to employ Black people.
Some people would argue that challenging the BNP in this way, particularly after their recent European electoral success, will seem like a spiteful move to suppress ideas we don’t like. But this is not about suppressing ideas.
Their odious ideology needs to be effectively challenged on the door step up and down the country. This particular aspect is fundamentally about political parties operating within the law. A law that enshrines our freedoms and equality.
by Simon Woolley