We are on the verge of founding Britain’s first Thought Police.
Using the excuse of terrorism – whose main victim is considered thought – Theresa May’s Home Office is making a law which attacks free expression in this country as it has never been attacked before.
We already have some dangerous laws on the books. The Civil Contingencies Act can be used to turn Britain into a dictatorship overnight, if politicians can find an excuse to activate it. [Also the secretive injustices of the Family Court system and miss-use of the Terrorism Act to silence whistle-blowers, attempts at draconian Press regulation in the teeth of the Westminster Child Sex And Murders scandal, and the intrusion into, and recording of, aspects of our private lives by everyone from MI5 to dustbin-men and nursery school workers. jc]
But the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, now slipping quietly and quickly through Parliament, is in a way even worse. It tells us what opinions we should have, or should not have.
As ever, terrorism is the pretext. Yet there is no evidence to suggest that the criminal drifters, school drop-outs and drug-addled losers who do much terrorist dirty work (and whose connections with vast worldwide conspiracies are sketchy to say the least) will be even slightly affected by it.
In a consultation paper attached to the Bill, all kinds of institutions, from nursery schools (yes really, see paragraph 107) to universities, are warned that they must be on the lookout for ‘extremists’.
But universities are told they have a ‘responsibility to exclude those promoting extremist views that support or are conducive to terrorism’.
Those words ‘conducive to’ are so vague that they could include almost anybody with views outside the mainstream.
What follows might have come from the laws of the Chinese People’s Republic or Mr Putin’s Russia. Two weeks’ advance notice of meetings must be given so that speakers can be checked up on, and the meeting cancelled if necessary.
Warning must also be given of the topic, ‘sight of any presentations, footage to be broadcast, etc’. A ‘risk assessment’ must be made on whether the meeting should be cancelled altogether, compelled to include an opposing speaker or (even more creepy) ‘someone in the audience to monitor the event’.
Institutions will be obliged to promote ‘British values’. These are defined as ‘democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs’. ‘Vocal and active opposition’ to any of these is now officially described as ‘extremism’.
Given authority’s general scorn for conservative Christianity, and its quivering, obsequious fear of Islam, it is easy to see how the second half will be applied in practice. As for ‘democracy’, plenty of people (me included) are not at all sure we have it, and wouldn’t be that keen on it if we did.
Am I then an ‘extremist’ who should be kept from speaking at colleges? Quite possibly. But the same paragraph (89, as it happens) goes further. ‘We expect institutions to encourage students to respect other people with particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010’.
These ‘protected characteristics’, about which we must be careful not to be ‘extremist’, are in fact the pillars of political correctness – including disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, sex and sexual orientation.
The Bill is terrible in many other ways. And there is no reason to believe that any of these measures would have prevented any of the terrorist murders here or abroad, or will do so in future.
They have been lifted out of the box marked ‘try this on the Home Secretary during a national panic’, by officials who long to turn our free society into a despotism.
Once, there would have been enough wise, educated, grown-up people in both Houses of Parliament to stand up against this sort of spasm. Now most legislators go weak at the knees like simpering teenage groupies whenever anyone from the ‘Security’ or ‘Intelligence’ services demands more power and more money.
So far there has been nothing but a tiny mouse-squeak of protest against this dangerous, anti-British, concrete-headed twaddle. It will go through. And in ten years’ time we’ll wonder why we’re locking people up for thinking. We’ll ask: ‘How did that happen?’ This is how it happens.