(This blog was incorrectly posted under the name of Fiona Bruce MP. TCW apologises to Mrs Bruce for this error)
Look around the country and there is a battle raging over free speech and the right to hold and articulate particular views.
Jewish students, who merely support the right of Israel to exist, have been attacked by a small but vocal minority who denounce them as Zionists. Some MPs have even backed using anti-terror laws against Christian teachers who publicly affirm their belief in the traditional definition of marriage.
Increasingly, we see the creation of “safe spaces” with traditional, challenging and controversial views barred from discussion. Who exactly defines what is and is not acceptable in these Stalinesque spaces seems anyone guess. Even feminists Julie Bindel and Germaine Geer have fallen foul of them.
How sad our once great institutions of learning have fallen so far from the ambition of social reformers like Martin Luther King, who said “the function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically” or as artist and political activist campaigner Ai Weiwei put it, “When you have strict censorship [of the internet], young students cannot receive a full education. Their view of the world is unbalanced. There can be no true discussion of the issues”.
Of course, it’s not just our schools and universities that are failing to stand up for free speech, in almost every walk of life it is under assault from a small cabal of the liberal elite, who think their views are somehow of greater worth.
Climate change sceptics are described as deniers, a loaded term designed to evoke memories of Holocaust deniers. Those who voted for Brexit last year are either portrayed as thick working class racists, or mad swivel-eyed right-wingers obsessed with abstruse points of law and sovereignty.
Depressingly, this week saw yet another appalling example of the uber-PC brigade sneering at those with differing views and trying to shut down debate. A small pro-life charity called Life received an award from the Government, which used money set aside from the so-called Tampon Tax.
The charity makes no bones that it is pro-life and it does not support abortion. It provides services including non-directive counselling to pregnant mothers who want to know their options. The money from this particular grant will be used to house expectant mother who are in crisis. All seems very laudable at this point.
Yet, because it is unashamedly anti abortion, cue the usual suspects denouncing the charity, claiming that it went against a woman’s right to have an abortion. What about a woman’s right to have a baby?
Admittedly, its pro-life views might only represent a minority, but a significant minority that cannot and should not be dismissed as unimportant. Also worth considering at this point is that while poll after a poll highlights strong support for the current legislation, there is little statistical evidence on why women actually have an abortion. Two studies in America found significant numbers of those choosing a termination did so because of financial pressures and fears that they weren’t ready to become mothers.
What if these figure are reflected in Britain? Could “a woman’s choice” be a mere illusion for some and abortion rather an empowering act, as some claim, might include many who would really like to have a child, but because of external factors decide not to?
Surely this is worthy discussion and research whether you are pro-life or pro-termination; after all both sides agree that more needs to be done to reduce the 200,000 abortions that take place in the UK every year.
But given the current climate, it seems unlikely that such a discussion could ever take place in a measured and rational way. To go back to the rage unleashed against Life, one commentator is even trying to get the charity banned from going into schools and colleges.
Opponents claim to be banging the drum for choice and justice, but if choice is to mean anything it must mean knowing all sides, and options including having the baby when you don’t think you are ready, like every first time parent, or when you lack the financial resources. As for justice, “There is no crueller tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice”, said French lawyer Charles de Montesquieu – how true.
This is why we must defend free speech and rational debate and turn against those that seek to stifle discussion, even when unpopular and challenging. If we do not then we risk that other warning from Montesquieu about the dominance of the government and country by a small group or elite. In his time it was the Bourbon Kings; in our time the despotic PC brigade who want to crush all dissent that confounds their world view.