WE are truly living in 1984. We expect our elected politicians to be bastions of free speech. Not so in leafy Shropshire, it seems. In an interview in which he opposed proposals to remove a statue of Clive of India from Shrewsbury town centre, Shropshire Council leader Peter Nutting, a Conservative, said that ‘all lives matter’, arguing that you should not pick one section of society over another.
As a result, he has been ordered on to a diversity training course, even though he has already attended one.
Karen Bradshaw, Shropshire Council’s acting chief executive, told the Shropshire Star: ‘In his interview Councillor Nutting made clear that retaining the Clive of India statue is very much his personal view’. She added by way of explanation that ‘all Shropshire councillors are invited to attend equality and diversity training when they are first elected to the council, and then refreshed on a regular basis’.
Her comments raise the question of who pressured Mr Nutting to go on this re-education training – an invitation that apparently cannot be refused – and under what authority did they do so?
I would suggest that no local civil servant has the statutory authority to order councillors to do any such thing.
Rather than ‘re-educating’ their council leader, it is his bullying critics who are in need of enlightenment. Article 10 of our Human Rights Act (originally initiated by British Conservative politicians following the social teaching of the Catholic Church in the early part of the last century) enshrines the right to Freedom of Expression.
‘All lives matter’ is the basic concept of ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself’. That is, treat everyone equally.
If we cannot freely defend that concept, our national values are seriously weakened.