The Curmudgeon


Monday, November 27, 2006

Extremist Restrictions

The last thing we need, in this Mother of Democracies, is an electorate which takes an interest in politics. The Metropolitan Police, in their capacity as guardians of free speech, are to lobby the Vicar of Downing Street's chum, Lord Goldsmith, because "officers believe that large sections of the population have become increasingly politicised, and there is a growing sense that the current restrictions on demonstrations are too light". There is, it appears, a "growing national and international perception" that the police have been too soft on "extremist protesters", thus presumably encouraging them to do something more extreme than mere protestation. If only the police had powers to "proscribe protest chants and slogans on placards, banners and headbands", the extremists would learn their lesson and slink quietly off, leaving the rest of us to savour in peace and prosperity the freedoms for which they hate us. Unfortunately, in the absence of such powers, "Islamic extremists have learned how to cause offence without breaking the law", which is obviously too bad of them. Even the new law against religious hatred will not criminalise the fiends: "Virtually all activity by protesters could constitute insulting or abusive language, behaviour or banners towards particular religions, but would fall outside the remit of inciting religious hatred." There must, argues the assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, be "a clear message that we will not allow any extremist group to display banners or make public statements that clearly cause offence within the existing law", though how the offensiveness of the statements or banners is to be gauged before they have been made or displayed, i.e. allowed, remains regrettably obscure. Will the Metropolitan Police now need to see every public statement in advance of its delivery; or will it simply draw up a list of "verbal behaviours liable to cause offence" and supply a copy to each officer at every demonstration where a politicised section of the population is likely to show up?


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