By David Campbell Bannerman, Chairman
Recently, the Freedom Association’s ruling Council agreed to add two precious freedoms, to bring our list of core freedoms to 10: we added ‘Freedom of Religion and Belief’, long espoused by Adrian Hilton, and ‘Freedom of Speech, Expression and Assembly’, at my suggestion, to cement this core freedom explicitly into our purpose.
The full list now contains: Individual Freedom, Personal and Family Responsibility, The Rule of Law, Limited Government, Free Market Economy, National Parliamentary Democracy, Strong National Defences, A Free Press and Other Media, plus our two new additions. I fear we are fighting for every single one of the ten.
The State is becoming all consuming over Covid controls – ‘Individual Freedom’ is at risk. Not since wartime curfews during the Blitz have we suffered such a loss of personal freedom and control. The Freedom Association has a delicate path to tread between adherence to the rule of law for the greater good, to recognise our conviction to ‘Personal and Family Responsibility’, which clearly encourages citizens to avoid hurting others through spreading Covid, and to stand up for individual freedoms. We must be very vigilant on what is acceptable on a temporary basis, and what is not. We don’t believe further lockdowns are at all necessary, for example, nor that Britain’s vaccines passports within the UK are acceptable – we must always be on guard against the State getting too familiar and cosy with these extraordinary powers, or our people being divided into first and second class citizens.
Covid has also exposed the reality of major problems with the ‘Rule of Law’. Policing is in crisis, with too much politically biased policing, particularly at the behest of a failed London Mayor that is unable to get a grip on out-of-control knife crime, and its tragic legacy. Policing is excessive occasionally and feeble far too often – such as the policy of blithely assisting Insulate Britain protestors onto major roads to mount a protest, in case they hurt themselves, their rights trumping those needing ambulances or desperately trying to see dying relatives. When police moved fast to intercept an Extinction Rebellion lorry about to unleash its warped street theatre and sculptures, we all cheered, more out of surprise than relief!
Far more invidious are outrages over so called, and ill defined ‘hate speech’ – too often anti free speech itself - and abuses such as deeply sinister ‘non crime hate incidents’ – allowing the police to record incidents and generate a police record which appears on potential employer checks, even though no actual crime has been committed, and often without even informing those being recorded. So, the Law is being compromised and damaged, and the creeping use of crimes of thought crime rather than criminal acts – yes 1984-style Thought Crime – are real and existent. Box ticking for politically correct reasons is damaging the police and the military, who now are totally distracted with stressing the standard use of ‘pronouns’. The US military recently blamed this kind of nonsense for a collapse of its units in a war game against the Royal Marines – the Culture Wars are designed to make us weak.
This, and Leftist-leaning legislation like Labour’s Human Rights Act, which sought to reinterpret the rights and freedoms we already enjoyed, those which British judges wrote into the European Convention of Human Rights, but have now been twisted by excessive interpretation through the British courts, which the HRA requires courts and over-keen judges to ‘take into account’.
The HRA is making it very hard to deport violent criminals such as Jamaican murderers and rapists because leeching human rights lawyers are able to claim ECHR protection on ‘family life’ – even a convicted wife beater could not be deported because of their right to family life. The Home Secretary is struggling to deport 50 hardened criminals at the third attempt – and her Home Office too often shows it is culturally opposed to deporting anyone. I despair that we have been unable to stop or deport any of the economic migrants arriving by boat, despite hitting large town populations at 21,000 illegal immigrants. We are running out of hotels – and what about our own people?
Britain has become a soft touch and laughing stock. Worse, these policies betray our own citizens – the 21 with everything to live for, like the young girls butchered in the Manchester Arena blast, because the Royal Navy rescued the bomber as a Libyan ‘refugee’, his brother cynically escaping the inquiry, and whose parents are still living freely in Libya. How many more will die because of this disgraceful laxness driven by a terrible fear of being labelled racist if any objection or firmness is made?
As Chairman, I have made scrapping the Human Rights Act one of my key targets, and I am delighted that Dominic Raab as Justice Secretary and Martin Howe QC, who spoke so inspiringly to us recently, are already on the case with these reforms.
As for ‘Limited Government’, the consequences of the £400 billion plus cost of Covid is also a much enlarged State, massive wartime-like National Debt, and a budget that was big on spending but free of tax cuts. Our inability to control the size and reach of the State has given rise to major discussions on what Conservatism now means and whether Thatcherism is today as distant from the Conservative core as Lady Thatcher was from the Heathite mainstream in 1979.
The dangerous Remainer attempts by former Legal Officers and activists allegedly in league with the former Speaker, to seek to overturn the result of the Brexit Referendum, brought our ‘National Parliamentary Democracy’ into deep dispute; as does the criminal behaviour of some MPs, furores over the standards oversight systems and the poor calibre of too many Parliamentarians, with tokenism and choosing compliant yes men and women to the fore.
There is talk of yet more disgraceful cuts to our armed forces, when it comes to ‘Strong National Defences’. We don’t even have the numbers for an army any more, and major sell offs such as Fort George near Inverness and Redford Barracks Edinburgh, both of which I visited as an officer cadet, undermine both our armed forces and the British Union itself, as Scotland is a large beneficiary of UK Defence and provides many excellent troops. If the Union were to dissolve, our nuclear submarine defence force may have to move to the USA or France, and Russian jets would be hundreds of miles closer to us.
A ‘Free Press and Other Media’, Number 8 Freedom, are critical to holding politicians, businesses and governments to account – to expose the inconvenient, the cover ups, and the corruption and wrongdoing of the powers that be.
But there has been a collapse in professional standards – even newsreaders now regularly fluff their lines, and many stories and spokespeople are brought on regarding ill sourced or plainly inaccurate reports.
The BBC has lost its core offering: rigorous impartiality. I didn’t know what John Humphrys' politics were when a presenter; but current presenters are blatantly and proudly biased, and get away with it – such as the controversial diatribe by Emily Maitlis on Newsnight. The BBC is now rabidly woke, seems to delight in stirring racial and other divisions with its programming, and has lost all sense of proportionality over Climate Change, claiming all extreme weather is caused by it and with a journalist abusing the Prime Minister whose sister was twice arrested for Insulate Britain demonstrations, and aggressive Today presenters telling the Prime Minister to “stop talking”.
Much is brought about by the bankrupting of serious mainstream Media outlets like local papers, which once used to report so much local news such as court cases diligently, acting as apprenticeships, and thereby built up excellent journalists who learnt what a good story was and how to convey it. Major newspapers now have been hit hard by cost cutting and have lost the ability to question, to dig for stories and to provide an effective check on the establishment, though mercifully some remain in the game.
They are less able to question reports put out by politically biased organisations or political figures, and so tend just to use many reports or opinions unquestioningly. Their parlous finances have meant they are too beholden to big advertisers – such as the Government. In Scotland, the big spending power of the SNP Government on Covid seems to have taken the edge off adequately holding Sturgeon’s disastrous domestic record to account.
On ‘Freedom of Religion and Belief’, Christians are now second class citizens in what is meant to be a Christian country, and I know of many cases which amount to a form of persecution, where the rights of minorities trump those of Christians, who are being needlessly prosecuted – a top barrister I know, Paul Diamond, who won the Christian Cross banning case in Strasbourg against British Airways, introduced me to several Christian victims of such laws and explained their cases. It was shocking and shameful.
But we have an Established Church led by an Archbishop of Canterbury who thinks Climate Change is on a par with the Holocaust, despite being an oil man once, and warns leaders they will be ‘cursed’ if they fail to act – the first time I have heard a vicar deliver a curse. My own local Norwich Cathedral seems more interested on preaching about climate change and in favour of immigration than that of God. So, we now have to protect our own Established religion more than ever, and other religions and beliefs too.
So, I turn to the last Freedom – one of the most vital: that of ‘Freedom of Speech, Expression and Assembly’. It is indeed sad that core freedoms we have long taken for granted, such as free speech, free expression and freedom of assembly, have to be re-stated now. Sad, but necessary - because it is clear all these freedoms are under threat.
Examples abound. Kathleen Stock, the Professor from Sussex University, even with the support of that university – which has rarity value in itself – has been forced to resign due to intimidation and threats. I heard her speaking on BBC Radio 4 and she was saintly in her dignity and calmness – this is a feminist and lesbian being hounded out, hardly someone unsympathetic to transgender people. All for mildly pointing out basic truths - that sex cannot be changed, only gender, those two definitions being easily confused. Fertility expert Lord Wilson confirmed this on Question Time – that sex is unchangeable, and our sex is ingrained in every fibre of our being. But he expected aggro.
Today, stating the truth is no defence. That is a very scary state of affairs. I suspect there is a dam about to break, because of the public’s growing frustration and annoyance at being denied free speech and free expression and being told we are all racist, that all white people are privileged and thereby are denied even a right to an equal opinion, because of ‘unconscious bias’. This is a great way to cow the majority of the population – the 87%.
Our cowardice, our inability to stand up and challenge their dangerous inventions and divisive language and tactics strongly and determinedly means we now live in a world where primary schools are asking boys to wear skirts to promote diversity, the respected retailer John Lewis produces a heavily criticised film of a boy in a skirt – presumably to support transgenders - wrecking his family home. Even Marks & Spencer is into pronouns.
All major corporates are now showing as much minority representatives (just 13% population) and interracial families (7%) on TV advertising as possible to shout ‘we are woke too’ – this is all about the values of the company, not the product. Yet this bears no relation to the market – research from the CPS / Frank Luntz shows such positioning only appeals to 9% of the public who think firms should ‘speak out on important social issues that matter in Britain today’, and 45% think businesses should avoid political positions or controversial positions.
This craziness we dare not even laugh off any more either. The British sense of humour, our wonderful comedy, so much part of our identity, is being lost. It is necessary now to be so careful – to self-censor to such an extent – that spontaneous jokes, quips, Churchillian witteries have to be held back or abandoned lest it bring down a Witch-hunt driven by righteous, deadly serious, easily offended people.
A comedy hero of mine John Cleese maintains that political correctness started as a good idea but that society should not be centred around it. He is to do a TV series ‘Cancel Me’ on what can and cannot be said. Meanwhile, his fellow Monty Python star Terry Gilliam has had his new show cancelled by the Old Vic over views on trans people. He earlier described the ‘Me Too’ movement as a “witch hunt” and whilst condemning the disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein said there were “decent people” who were “getting hammered” by the movement for highlighting abuses of power, and for backing comedian Dave Chappelle for perceived slights on trans people, in a similar way to JK Rowling’s treatment.
But when Biden’s disastrous results in the USA and a backlash in the UK shows that the public are sick to death of wokeness – that ‘holier than thou’, all knowing, arrogant and persecutory approach that seeks to correct our thinking, and treat everyone as racist – with an unconscious bias or not. All of this is a direct attack on free expression and seeks to divide, and ultimately destroy our society.
Look at the unimpeded surge to destroy our statues. ‘Save our Statues’ is doing brilliant work opposing the tearing down of statues across the UK, driven by revolutionary zeal and an attempt to paint any historical figure as racist or slave owning. Even the National Trust is engaged in shaming many of its house owners including Winston Churchill; and I urge you to back Restore Trust in seeking to restore sanity.
What is going on is nothing short of a determined, premeditated and wide-ranging Revolution. That is not an exaggeration. Our institutions are being captured like a cancer cell invades a healthy cell. Those institutions are being hollowed out and destroyed one by one. We are to be made weak and vulnerable through creating confusion and doubt. If you don’t even know whether you are male or female, if your society is to be celebrated or destroyed, are obsessed with not offending anyone, then you cannot stand up robustly to a major external threat, as we did in 1940.
Their main tactic is the Communist manual of ‘Critical Theory’, and now ‘Critical Race Theory’. Basically, this is a technique of destroying our society by negative criticism of every aspect of it. Very rarely, if ever, do you hear positive stories of how we have benefited the world, only a constant critical diatribe of how bad we are – such as colonialism, the slave trade, the Windrush Scandal, Brexit fallout – just see a BBC schedule. Victimhood is rife – everyone is a victim today and all want to persecute those they consider responsible. In the USA, the organisation Black Lives Matter is at heart Marxist and revolutionary – and it has chosen race as its victim proletariat rather than class, as they regard class as more European, and with the US’s racial history. Yet in the UK White Lives Matter is being investigated as a hate crime.
Academia is overwhelmingly left wing now – over 80% - and is ironically in the forefront of attacking truths and suppressing free speech, tamely allowing extremists to win. Running through a Left-leaning Politically Correct Whitehall, Political Parties pandering to these revolutionary forces in their tokenism, the BBC and TV media, the trades unions, human rights lawyers and Police Commissioners, we even find bastions of the establishment under attack – even the National Trust for heaven’s sake!
In summary, never have our Freedoms, expressed in the 10 that define us, been so challenged and are ever in peril. Never has the Freedom Association been so relevant as it is now.
These are major challenges, but the people are more with us than the revolutionaries. As we saw with Brexit, ordinary people standing up to rampant powerful corporations and transnational posturing and bullying, can win. The Truth can triumph. But we must never rest. Freedom needs constant vigilance.