IN advance of today’s important Batley and Spen by-election, I talked to Laurence Fox, leader of the Reclaim Party, about the free speech rally he held there, the disgraceful failure of either of the main parties to defend the Batley grammar school teacher still in hiding, and why free speech should be the overriding issue of the election today.
You can listen to the interview here:
And here is the edited transcript:
KATHY GYNGELL: You made the decision that you weren’t going to field a candidate, but you’d just actually go up there and take advantage of the situation. Can you just tell me about that and explain when you came to that decision and why?
LAURENCE FOX: We’d spoken to Paul Halloran who was a local Independent candidate for the last election. I spent a long time talking with him about what would be the best thing for Batley. In the end, we came to the conclusion that with the Labour block vote, what we’d end up doing would be splitting the vote and with Labour in the sort of identitarian crisis that it’s in; we thought the people of Batley would blame him if he’d split the vote. So we decided that we would prepare instead for the general election, and because the Reclaim Party is so new go and meet the people of Batley and say, ‘Look, this is what we stand for’, and invite all speakers to come and join us and hold a free speech rally, which is one of the main things that was missing; and raise awareness about this poor teacher who’s been absolutely thrown under the bus by everybody from the teachers’ union to the local MP to the government, and the media. He’s just collateral damage in this cultural self-isolation that small elements of the Muslim community are doing up in Batley.
It was very positive actually, it wasn’t toxic at all. I didn’t want to get involved in a toxic debate. But I also don’t want de facto blasphemy laws being brought into our country or our education policy dictated by thugs and bullies. I felt that, in the absence of any other party doing that and representing the teacher, that someone had to stand up for him.
There was a feeling in their constituency that the Conservatives may be the answer. You know, at least they haven’t had a Conservative MP since the mid-seventies I don’t think. And they thought, ‘Oh, well maybe the Conservatives will sort this out.’ Both myself and Paul Halloran don’t believe that the Conservatives will, as the total absence of Ryan Stephenson (the Tory candidate) saying anything whatsoever about the situation shows – that they’re not interested in free speech and they’re not interested in a teacher who’s done nothing wrong. We thought we’d give them their two years to show the constituency that they also don’t care about the teacher and the people of Batley; then we’d come out in the general election and stand, both for him and for everyone who’s having their lives and what they can and can’t say policed by a very intolerant minority within the country.
KG: I noticed that you were flanked by George Galloway. Did you just feel that anybody who was prepared to come to that public meeting, you were going to welcome on the free speech grounds?
LF: It’s tricky, isn’t it, with free speech, because I’m not keen on the extreme far right or the extreme far left. George Galloway’s a funny one. I agree with him on actually quite a lot and I disagree with him on some crucial, profound things as well. But I think you cannot have a free speech meeting without allowing people to speak freely, can you?
KG: And there was no interest from Labour? It’s Jo Cox’s sister is standing, isn’t it?
LF: Yeah. She sent a short message, it was quite cleverly worded, but again we were lumped with this word ‘respect’. . . you know, ‘One has to respect, respect, respect and apologise and apologise and apologise,’ rather than tolerate.
The Labour Party didn’t even engage. The Tory Party didn’t even get back to us about it. They didn’t even have the courtesy to respond to a hand-delivered letter and email and a letter in the post letter and an invitation from myself on social media. But the thing is we live in a secular democracy, don’t we, which means you’re free to practise any religion or none. We don’t live in a theocracy, thank goodness. So, you know, I celebrate the rights of Muslims to practise their religion in this country. But ultimately, first and foremost, we’re British. And we must be British before everything else. Otherwise, we have little theocracies developing in certain communities in the country. And that’s very bad for national social cohesion. So for the Conservatives to just totally ignore it, they’re cowardly. All they want to do is just pretend that it hasn’t happened. But this is a man with a partner and four children who’s in hiding. And you would have thought the governing party – when he’s done absolutely nothing wrong – the governing party and the local MP would be there standing up for him.
KG: Presumably, Labour stood up for all sorts of identity rights. And it’s certainly mentioned that Kim Leadbeater stands up for them. So is she burying her head in the sand, because those will not be views that certain Muslim constituents will approve of? Are they just simply ignoring that dilemma they now find themselves in, do you think?
LF: It’s becoming commonplace in politics, isn’t it, that certain things will be ignored by the political class, and it will therefore be ignored by the bought-and-paid-for media class – with the exception of GB News, who are trying to have a more balanced discussion about this. There was a palpable anger amongst people up there over this issue. Actually, I was very nervous and, you know, panicky about going up there in a way because of the tensions. But if you just take a debate out to people and you have it honestly and fairly, then that’s how you keep community cohesion. I just find it so abominable that they threw this man under the bus and he’s just collateral damage for some sort of upper middle class Tory from some other different area to stroll in and start serving up Boris’s message. And they’ve obviously been told by CCHQ, ‘You’re not to talk about the Batley Grammar schoolteacher.’
It’s like, ‘Well, hang on, you’re the government. That’s your job, is to stand up for that teacher’ not to kowtow to a very intolerant and small minority and very hardcore Muslims who do not speak for the more moderate Muslim community, but they are making us feel like they do, because no one will engage. So, not only are you throwing him under the bus and you’re not listening to your constituents in Batley, you’re (also) unempowering moderate Muslims to feel more British and their children to feel more British, at the hands of a very small, very intolerant mob. And I find that very sad.
KG: Did you get a chance to engage with either of those sections of the Muslim community, you describe as the moderates, and the small, intolerant mobs?
LF: I said hello to them. And, you know, they were there, and there was a sense of, you know, tension, but I was warm and I said, ‘Hello, nice to meet you.’
But you get the feeling when you’re there that this isn’t what the people of Batley want. You know, they want what every Brit wants, from all different skin cultures and ethnicities and religions, which is just a bit of fairness and tolerance and freedom of expression. That was why we had to go there. And it seems to me, (if) you absolutely cannot discuss certain things with certain communities, you’re not a nation then, are you? You’re a group of identity groups. And culturally self-isolating is not the right thing to do.
KG: So if you were standing, say you were the Reclaim candidate, your platform, would be, ‘This is an election about free speech.’
LF: Yes. I would have stood for the teacher and for everyone who believes in free speech, which is a cornerstone of everything that I ever do anyway.
KG: And you’d have put lockdown to one side for the moment?
LF: Lockdown is a separate issue. I mean, weirdly, they’re all . . . they are all connected in some way. But, you know, this was particularly about my feelings that no one had (defended) a fellow countryman. And it wouldn’t have mattered to me if it had been a different religion doing a different thing. It’s just those aren’t the rules. It’s got to be legislated. You’ve got to put this before Parliament, it’s got to be legislated for, campaigned for, get royal assent. You can’t just say, ‘We apologise, we apologise, we apologise. We’re going to be more respectful.’ Well, you’re being disrespectful of British law with your actions, so which law trumps . . . ?
I would say it would be better if we had the standard parliamentary system of how we get laws to work in this country, that would trump respect and apologising.
KG: It’s very difficult legislating. Jordan Peterson’s said in an interview that for years and years we’ve taken freedom of speech for granted and nobody’s really analysed what it is. But we’re now pressed into this position by the emergency of the identity thing into defining it and that inherently causes problems. That’s the problem: they’ve won this culture war so far, so we’re forced into a position to have to defend and explain something that should never have needed defending and explaining.
LF: Well, we’re being undermined by our own government. And this whole idea that freedom of speech means that you’re condoning certain types of speech, that’s not true. I don’t condone a lot of what George Galloway says but I do defend his right to say it.
KG: What about the issue of the government abusing their position with children and schools and teaching . . . (set) against the right to show the Charlie Hebdo picture to a group of teenage children in order to explain the issue of free speech, I would be fighting against, along with some of perhaps you might call the mob of more extreme Muslims, the state’s right to impose gender-fluid, early sexualisation education on small children, that weirdly is going on at the same time.
LF: It is.
KG: It’s so confused.
LF: Well, it makes you wonder and ask yourself who’s actually running the country. And I’m starting to believe that it’s not the government. The country is run by the institutions that have been infiltrated – certainly Stonewall has been called to account over this sort of stuff. But our institutions that we create to support our culture have been completely overtaken by a militant leftist agenda, which hates Britain, hates what we stand for, is very keen to sexualise our children. It’s a sort of demonic equity drive, isn’t it? Children can be sexual objects. Men with penises can walk into female changing areas.
KG: Sainsbury’s is – to get on the Stonewall league of being woke – to have trans bathrooms and things.
LF: Sainsbury’s is just acting mendaciously, because essentially what they’re saying is, ‘If you don’t shop at Sainsbury’s, you’re a racist or a bigot or a transphobe,’ or whatever it is that Sainsbury’s is doing, probably tied to the fact that they’ve got a very privileged white board, I’d imagine. And it’s . . . it’s just pure division. It’s pure, pure division. And the piece that makes me desperately worried about it is, I can’t see a single institution that hasn’t been taken over by it.
So you’ve got the England football team today saying that they’re going to wear rainbow armbands, quite aside from the fact that rainbows belong to everybody and they come out during amazing weather changes, why do you suddenly get to take the rainbow off us? You know, you’ve recolonised the rainbow with your ideology. And it’s just dreadful. And you think, ‘You’re such hypocrites.’ What would have happened, you know, if Pride Month was in Qatar, in the World Cup next year, would you be wearing the rainbow patch there, you virtue-signalling little tw*ts? This idea also that now that hypocrisy is heroism and victim status is hero status. It’s dissolving any meaning that we can . . .
KG: . . . because you don’t have to do anything. You just have to say something and put yourself in a position. The notion of virtue has crumbled.
LF: . . . look at Sadiq Khan [London mayor] talking about standing up for trans rights and all of this stuff. And I’m like, seven young people were murdered last weekend. That you can do something about. You can actually do something about that.
KG: [speaking over] Well, actually, it’s so much easier to say, ‘I’m standing up for trans rights than to do anything about the seven kids that were murdered.’
LF: Well, I think it’s why I find politics so difficult. Because I got thrust into it and therefore I want to be useful. I actually want to do something. But I’ve suddenly realised that want to be powerful, and show up, (but) not engage with these issues, certainly with the one you raised in education, which is appalling, (that they) want to teach young children about anal sex and things like that, it’s just dreadful. It’s essentially a cultural capture. It’s cultural takeover. And the cowardice of our government not to respect and stand up for British values is . . . I’m shocked that people vote for them.
Utimately, the reason why we’re not standing there is because I think if Labour come third after George Galloway, which fingers crossed they do, I don’t know where they go from there, losing by-election after by-election to the opposition. Whether they would start to vote someone in more sensible who actually wanted to do what it said on the tin, like defend Labour . . . (instead of) the obsession in modern politics of trying to change things, trying to redress balances that a) don’t exist and b) you can’t do anything about anyway.
KG: Will you take this (public free speech rallies) round the country?
LF: We’re organising it now. We’re going to go and meet all the people that we want, we’re going to go and talk to as many people as we can.
KG: And will you find the areas that are most afflicted by these divisions?
LF: I think it has to be 50-50, doesn’t it? You have to find areas where you would have the most impact and the areas that are most afflicted as well. But obviously, it’s such a fine line. I don’t want to throw myself into a theological debate because, you know, I haven’t read the Koran, Hadith, and these things, so you know, I’m going on a core principle. I don’t want to cause more division. I want people to just feel empowered to say, ‘I can speak up about it.’ And actually, again and again, the good thing is that what we do do, in our little way here, at Reclaim HQ, is we do make sure that these issues get talked about. And they will.
You know, in America, they don’t talk about white privilege any more, they talk about white supremacy. They talk about the problem, that whiteness in itself is a problem and that’s coming here. You know, and you listen to the John Amaechis of this world patronisingly preaching at you about your white privilege. This is just racism, that’s all it is. We just happen to be on the butt end of it this time.
KG: Final question – would you be prepared to head up what I call a Freedom Alliance, if other smaller parties came along with you? You can see it at Batley and mayoral elections – so many different people standing – I mean, it’s just crazy. Somewhere people have got to lower their egos and say, ‘We’re actually going to work together’. Otherwise, there will be no opposition of any reasonable sort in the near future.
LF: I think it’s crucial that we do it. Obviously Richard Tice and I have managed so far to to work really well together and stay out of each other’s way. But I think we do need to come together. And I think that would give us more clout as well. So we do talk about it.
Ultimately, in this one, it does feel like it needs to be me, because I’m the pit bull. And they can come after me all they like. The main issue that we’ve got at the moment in the country – other than the fact that our state has got bigger and bigger and bigger and they’re trying to force on us a non-voted-for Great Reset – you know, the Building Back Better agenda – is this cultural issue. And Britain is becoming more and more divided by it. I’m just astonished the government don’t adopt a position. Why won’t they adopt a position on it? I mean, it’s like . . . oh, because it might be a little bit unpopular? You cowards. That’s what I think.
KG: Thank you, Laurence.