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Rob Slane: Hold your tongue or we will set the law on you


I have some thoughts in my head, but I’m reluctant to share them with you. I don’t want to land myself in trouble, you see. Some of these thoughts may or not be about marriage, and I may or may not have opinions about whether a marriage really ought to have just one man and just one woman in it. But I’ll leave you to guess. Must keep it all in the head.

Letting thoughts out of one’s head is dangerous and potentially illegal, according to Polly Harrow, head of safeguarding and Prevent at Kirklees College in Huddersfield. Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme last week, in a report on the Government’s counter-extremism policy, Ms Harrow was asked if a Muslim who believes that homosexuality is wrong should be accepted. This was her reply:

“If that’s what you think and that’s what you believe and you want to hold that in your head, that is your business and your right but bear in mind that if you speak it out loud you might be breaking the law.”

Well it’s good to know that we still have the right to hold certain thoughts in our heads, isn’t it?

Ms Harrow presumably considers herself to be one of the tolerant people, since she is in charge of promoting something called “British Values” at her College. For those of you who are unschooled in these things, British Values are a relatively new discovery. Whilst the laws and customs of Britain were formed over many centuries, unfortunately our forebears forgot to write down our “values” and it wasn’t until last year that we finally found out what they were when Theresa May very kindly agreed to write them out for us. According to Ms Harrow, what these values represent is “not just tolerance but acceptance of difference and others”. Beyond tolerance! Except of course for those ideas that can’t be tolerated and which need to be kept in your head of course!

Now I fully understand that Ms Harrow is not the official word on this, and I’m sure that if you asked one of those nice people in the Government to comment on her remarks they’d bend over backward to assure us that, “No this is not our intention at all. Of course it isn’t. We’re fully committed to freedom of speech and expression. Of course we are”. Trouble is, there have been enough comments coming from those nice people in the Government to give rise to the suspicion that Ms Harrow is not far wide of the mark. Remember Nicky Morgan and her equating of a pupil with “homophobic” views with extremism? Then there were the comments of Bullingdon Dave himself:

“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It’s often meant we have stood neutral between different values.”

By a process of simple logic, we can deduce that since Dave no longer wants a society that is “passively tolerant”, what he does want is a society that is one of the following:

  1. Passively intolerant
  2. Actively tolerant
  3. Actively intolerant

So which is it? Well since being a good citizen in Dave’s new society is measured not according to whether you abide by the law, but by whether you’ve got the “the right values”, further application of logic can identify it as being c – the “Actively intolerant society”. Which of course is deliciously ironic given our newfound allegiance to the great god Tolerance’n’Diversity.

Now someone will say that all societies are actively intolerant of something. Of course they are, but previous British societies (I mean before British Values were discovered last year) did not claim Tolerance’n’Diversity as their guiding code. They didn’t continually bleat on about just how much they were against intolerance and how they were the epitome of nice, open-minded, fairness. Today’sTolerance’n’Diversity worshippers, on the other hand, claim to be all these things, and then they tell you to shut your mouth when you dare to disagree.

Not only this but back in the day, when men were men, women were women and nobody ever thought of changing their name from Bruce to Caitlyn, if you had come out and said you believed two men ought to be allowed to marry, you’d probably have been looked at as a bit batty and would have brought upon yourself a goodish degree of mockery. But would anyone have said that in “speaking it out loud you might be breaking the law?” Nope.

So how is it that in the midst of the most Tolerant’n’Diverse society man has ever known, curiously we find ourselves being told to keep opinions in our heads and shut our mouths or else we’ll set the law on you? The reason is that intolerance is an inescapable concept. Every society must have a centre, a unifying set of convictions which hold it together. And when these values are transgressed, they will be dealt with, either by the law, if they are really serious, or by social disapproval.

The question is therefore not whether, but which. Not whether we are intolerant, but which things we are intolerant of and how we react to them when we see them. How does Tolerance’n’Diversity react when its code is transgressed? It reacts furiously, threatening the law on you if you don’t put up or shut up. You will accept Tolerance’n’Diversity or else.

Law-abiding Muslims and law-abiding atheists can live happily within a Christian society and they can have freedom of speech. But can Christians live happily within Tolerance’n’Diversity and retain freedom of speech? Increasingly the answer is no. Rather, it’s looking like Tolerance’n’Diversity is busily morphing into Totalitarianism’n’Despotism. Still, at least we’ve still got the freedom to think. That’s our business, you know. We just need to make sure we shut up about it.

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Rob Slane
Rob Slane
Rob is married to Alina, and they live with their six children in Salisbury. He blogs regularly at

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