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Saturday, September 26, 2020
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Home Culture Wars Can we protect freedom of speech like this?

Can we protect freedom of speech like this?

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LEFT liberalism is not just another fad like spiritualism or Scientology that will disappear of its own accord, but is a new ideology with messianic overtones. As many have pointed out, this way of thinking is rapidly growing in influence and needs to be resisted in order to protect free speech in liberal, democratic societies. This article suggests a legal mechanism by which this might be managed.

The reason in my view why Left liberalism is dangerous is that it takes the Marxist-inspired notion of special treatment for protected groups to its logical conclusion, i.e. by pitting men against women, whites against blacks, and heterosexuals against others of a different orientation. The more extreme followers of Left liberalism have encouraged conflict and, in some cases, violence between these groups to create a revolutionary situation. This is not an exaggeration: we are seeing this today on the streets of several cities in the US where a cultural revolution is in full swing.

Most Conservative voters in the UK are increasingly worried at the biased reporting of political events by much of the broadcast media and the barrage of corrosive comments on social media based on Left liberal assumptions which they do not share. Quite rightly, they are alarmed that freedom of speech is being eroded by never-ending attacks from the media and the Twitter mob against anyone who has the audacity to make political statements about, for example, transsexualism that diverge from a progressive, ‘woke’ standpoint.

The present government appears to be disinclined to do anything about this. I remember the complacency and cowardice of many in the upper reaches of the Conservative Party towards the trade union threat before Mrs Thatcher became Prime Minister, and the current situation has several parallels.

Freedom of speech in the UK is protected under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998. The problem is that this is an unwieldy general principle with a wide range of legal interpretations and of little effective use.

Using the framework of the law of tort might be a possible alternative response. This deals with civil wrongs that cause a claimant loss or harm. It can include intended emotional distress, financial loss, negligence, injuries, libel and slander among other things. The tort that is being proposed would require an intention to cause harm but would not require proof of dishonesty. In short, the Government could introduce a new statutory tort which would allow anybody to sue for civil damages who has suffered financial or other loss as a result of complaints from a third party about differences of political opinion.

An obvious example of this is where a public speaking engagement by a conservative speaker at a university is cancelled as a result of complaints from a (usually Left-wing dominated) student body because of his or her previously expressed views. The speaker could under this new arrangement sue the university for loss of earnings or reputation. The university would surely then think twice before clambering on the woke bandwagon and caving into such demands in the future.

Another example is where a person is punished or loses their job because it is claimed they have made a statement that some Left liberal zealot claims he or she finds offensive. I recall a case where a fellow councillor was taken to the Code of Conduct Committee for opening a door for a female and saying something along the lines of ‘After you, my dear’. The councillor who brought this case considered that this comment was disrespectful to her as a woman. Whether you agree with this or not, opening the door for a woman is not an illegal act and should not be subject to any sanction in a free society.

Admittedly, this proposal does not cover every situation, particularly trolling on social media, which would require a further article. Also I would like to make clear it is not intended to protect people who seek to make statements that stir up racial or other forms of hatred. There is plenty of legislation that already prohibits this. My intention is simply to put this idea in the public domain to generate some discussion.

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Edward Smith
Edward Smith is the Shadow Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration for the London Borough of Enfield.

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