May blanket ban a bizarre overreaction

27 August 2011

9:24 AM

27 August 2011

9:24 AM

Just as it looked as if Theresa May was about to do the right thing over the EDL march
on Tower Hamlets, the Home Secretary decided to issue a blanket ban on all marches across five London boroughs for 30 days.

The whole point for those of us advocating a ban in the EDL was that there was a specific threat of violence associated with this extremist view. This new draconian measure suggests the police and
government are suspicious of all protest. At what point do these boroughs become "march-safe" again?


While I accept that these are particularly difficult times for the Met in the aftermath of the riots, I can’t accept that all street protest should be off limits.

Would I support a march in protest at the ban? Yes, I probably would.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • Fergus Pickering

    What is this ‘step up to the plate’? What plate? What are you talking about?

  • denis cooper

    “At what point do these boroughs become “march-safe” again?”

    Maybe when the police and courts have finally got round to doing their duty and the UAF thugs are where they belong, behind bars.

  • jonnyjackhammer

    Martin – there is an argument which says that those who wish to deny free speech to others – should not themselves be allowed to speak. This is the SWP’s view with their argument of “no free speech for fascists”. It goes back to the 1970s and their opposition to John Tyndall and the National Front and is mixed in with the idea that “fascists” are to be confronted on the streets and driven off the streets – because this is where they organise. I suspect this is why they are so “militant” in their oppositon to the EDL. They take the lessons of Cable Street as their example. However – and it is a big however – even if they are right to deny free speech to those who wish to deny free speech (and I don’t agree with them on this) – where is the evidence that the EDL are fascists or want to deny other the right to speak. Archibald and others have asked you to put up or shut up. They are absolutely right. Think about it Martin.

  • Steven Carrington

    In my opinion Theresa May is not an effective Home Secretary, she is neither decisive nor potrays a strong image to the public on law and order.

    She does not instill confidence that she is control of public order situations at government level. It was only when David Cameron arrive back from holiday that we seemed to have some sort of coherent government policy to the riots.

    Her reaction to banning certain groups of protesters is no way to run a democracy, we all have to listen to views expressed that we detest (Hateful Muslim clerics) for expamle. I f we are going to ban one group for extremist views, why not be consistant and ban the lot.

    Theresa May needs to step up to the plate, Home Secretary is an extremly important role for the safety, security and protection of the people of the Uk and should be led by someone who commands respect and instils confidence to the greater society.

  • Ian Walker

    Without freedom of speech, all other freedoms are illusory at best.

  • Baron

    Martin, why are you censoring me, could you explain what’s wrong with the posting, please.

    Listen to this, it ain’t made up, it comes from a society we’ll get if we keep on banning things.

    a large gathering of people, a man makes a suggestion that may solve the problem under discussion, many others respond, to a man positively, before the idea is put to a vote a member of a tribe that amongst other things also shouted to be in favour of free expression stands up, says only ‘you trust this man, a lackey of the bourgeoisie, an admirer of the decadent West? Comrades, please’. The suggestion is voted on, everyone votes against, not a single abstention, after the vote, many from the large gathering have a drink, chat, happily tell jokes about everything including the above mentioned tribe, pat the man on the back, life goes on as before.

    Shall Baron tell you what happened to the regime run by the tribe that practiced labelling of people without engaging with the argument they put forward?

  • TheLastHeretic

    See Martin.

    This is why it was wrong to support a ban on a specific march.

    Freedom Of Speech should be protected at all costs.

  • In2minds

    Anyone to talk about the violence at the Notting Hill Carnival, just asking?

  • David Bouvier

    I love the weasel words of “a specific threat associates with”.

    I take it you mean the likes of the UAF (run by known hard left activists) have a history of violence against the EDL when they protest, leading to disorder. This has been the explicit strategy of your left wing friends for decades.

    So instead of banning the UAF attack on them, you ban the original protest.

    Have you no sense of history – banning people from protesting against leftist opinion on the grounds that leftists will be provoked to social disorder. Wrong side of the iron curtain mate.

    That is a grotesque parofy of democracy and liberalism. Shame on you.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Well, in the absence of any reply or opposition to the commenters, I declare we are in possession of the field whence all resistance has fled. Commenters 1, Bright nil. Again.

  • Jethro Burns

    Well, Mr Bright Spark (excuse me for that impolite and possible infantile dig but I find your defence of free speech and of banning people you don’t like utterly unbelievable)
    Please have a look at Brendan O’Neils’ blog in The Telegraph. I think you will find he lives up to your free speech fundamentalism a lot more than you do. Mr Bright where on earth are we all going to end up with all these prohibitions? Have you not read 1984? Back to the dark ages. All these precious freedoms were won so very recently and we (you and your ilk) are already edging them round with ifs and buts left, right and centre.

  • Jack R

    I see that the English Defence League (on its website) says it is going to demonstrate next Saturday in Tower Hamlets, and gives TEN reasons for doing so:

    “10 Reasons to Demonstrate in Tower Hamlets”.

  • James

    Speech for you, but not for others?

    Well done on your consistency…

  • In2minds

    “a specific threat of violence associated with…….”

    Have we had the Notting Hill Carnival yet, is it safe to outside?

  • Sigur

    Martin, I usually find there is much to agree with in your words, but you do seem to be getting in an awful muddle about this.

    And, as other commentators have said, some proper analysis of the EDL would be welcome. It seems to me that many sensible people differentiate the EDL message from BNP racism, whereas the Spectator seems to consider both to be entirely beyond the pale.

  • abc

    For gods sake! ‘I don’t agree with his views but I will defend to my death his right to say them’ is this country full of fools who do not know what that means and why it is said.

  • Margaret Wilson

    Our politicians are hypocritical liars.

  • Jack R

    Under the labels of ‘multiculturalism’, and ‘political correctness’, the British political elite in general (including virtually all of the three main political parties, and the ‘liberal!/left’ media), in practice intend to ban the English Defence league from demonstration in Britain.

    The enemy is not then apparently:

    Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Taliban, Hamas, Fatah, Hizbollah, but the English Defence League!

  • Richard of Moscow

    Still having trouble answering, I see.

    This may help you:

  • Nick Kaplan

    Would you only support a march in protest at the ban May has actually imposed (i.e. the blanket ban) or would you have supported a march in protest at the ban you supported (i.e. a ban on the EDL’s march)?

    If the latter what would your position have been if members of the EDL had decided to march in protest at the ban on its marching? Would this march then have to have been banned as well, in a sort of meta-ban, leading you to support a march against the ban on the meta-ban and so on ad infinitum?

    Given how easily what you have said descends into absurdity (which given the absurdity of what you have said is no surprise), do you not think it would simply be better to allow the EDL to march, have that march properly policed, and advocate the immediate arrest of anyone involved in violence of any kind?

  • Ruby Duck

    May is right. If the police recommend a ban, the only appropriate course is a blanket ban.

    And I agree with those calling for a proper analysis of the EDL’s views. So far I have heard nothing from them that I can object to.

    What is the problem ? Are they working class, or something ?

  • I S

    How simple-minded are you? Do you not see that May’s ban is the obvious end-result of your pathetic bleatings to have a ban imposed on only one specific segment of opinion.
    Hoist by your own petard.

  • Muhammad Haque 2

    I entirely agree with the headline to your piece. I add also that in the context of all the events around which this stunt of a ban has been staged by the opportunistic CONDEM, the time cannot be far when the very same ban-backers will be braying against that ban.

  • Muhammad Haque

    I entirely agree with the headline to your piece. I add also that in the context of all the events around which this stunt of a ban has been staged by the opportunistic CONDEM Collusion, the time cannot be far when the very same ban-backers will be braying against that ban.

  • Charles De Ghoul

    The original reason given by Ms.May for the ban was the policing costs associated with this would be too much. If that is the case, then why is the Notting Hill Carnival still allowed to go ahead? They are deploying vast numbers of police and there is far more criminal activity around said carnival than a EDL march, even with the UAF aggrivators thrown into the mix.

    The truth is that the EDL couldn’t care less about marching through Tower Hamlets, there mission is to highlight how different groups are treated differently, and it is working.

    Notice how the media fawned over the Sikhs and Turks defending their communities, but as soon as the EDL did the same it was condemned very loudly and we heard nothing more about it.

    Don’t the idiots in the political establishment (including the media) realise that these lop-sided and disproportionate actions are radicalising white people? The EDL exists because the politicos are failing to listen and dismissing their concerns. Until they work this out, the problem is going to become wider and deeper.

  • Hangmansknotinn

    Do us a favour, Martin, and just be quiet.

  • Bill Rees

    Martin, the comments below this article and your previous one have shown you to be so astonishingly inconsistent that I think they deserve a response.
    You seem to be cornered, and you should take the chance to respond to the criticisms made of you. Otherwise it’s very hard to take you seriously.

  • Archibald

    Mr Bright, further to my other posts, as noone here seems to know what the EDL stand for, I have started the job for you. Here is a link to their mission statement.

    Now, I challenge you to dissect and defeat it. It’s fairly short as you will see, so it shouldn’t take you long. So let’s have a proper debate. I will make the same challenge to Mr Massie and Mr Nelson.

    (Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not an advocate of the EDL by any means, simply an advocate of proper debate.)

  • BelgianMagritte

    Mr Bright, I cannot believe your outrageous cheek. Surely you people must realise where all this can lead to if you start banning things.

  • Nicholas

    “The whole point for those of us advocating a ban in the EDL was that there was a specific threat of violence associated with this extremist view.”

    As opposed to the reality of violence associated with the “non-extremist” view of the anti-fascists who would confront the march and try to disrupt it by force?

  • Derek Pasquill

    Dishonest politicians and dishonest reporters make easy bedfellows it would seem, particularly if the duvet is one of dhimmitude.

  • Simon Stephenson.

    “The whole point for those of us advocating a ban in the EDL was that there was a specific threat of violence associated with this extremist view.”

    Yes, Rhoda’s right Martin. The tell-tale word in your justification is “this”, as though it is the view that is provocative of violence, and not the combination of deliberately confrontational behaviour by the marchers and the eager desire of their targets to retaliate.

    But why should anyone expect you to think any different? It appears from what you write that you conflate political ideology with human value – that anyone supporting the left cannot really be bad, and that anyone supporting the right cannot really be good. So any mass protest in a leftist cause cannot possibly be seeking to provoke physical violence, whilst anyone marching for the right can’t be doing anything else. It won’t fit into your belief-system that there’s a sizeable section of the population to whom the solitary purpose of mass protest is to foment physical violence, and that the banners behind which they pose are significant only to the extent that they are successful in achieving this purpose. They recognise that political/race/religious themes are the most powerful catalysts, but they’ve no real attraction to them other than as catalysts.

  • Erica Blair

    Is Martin Bright still denying that his articles inspired the EDL? A quick search of the EDL website reveals plenty of links to Bright’s writings on ‘Islamism’. Isn’t it time that Bright was honest with his readership?

  • Publius

    “this extremist view”

    What view?

  • Axstane

    So you would march in protest against bans on every organisation except the EDL?

    You should really examine your own thoughts. Have you turned from a libertarian to one who is in favour of freedom of speech and asembly only for those who share your politics?

    I think that Gadaffi held that opinion – you could demonstrate provided you were demonstrating in his favour.

    Myself I am prepared to see the EDL march, even Bob Crow and his Communists, rather than suffer the fate of all citizens under a totalitarian regime.

    Organise a demonstration with the deliberate intent to damage property or attack people though and I am in favour of draconian reaction by the police.

  • Archibald

    But you wouldn’t support a march in protest at the ban if the march was in Tower Hamlets, right? Good grief…

    Come on Martin, enough of this nonsense, do your job and dissect EDL policy to show it up for what you, Alex and Fraser claim it to be. That’s what freedom of speech is about. Not two articles on whether or not people can march, without a word about what they stand for and why it’s wrong. Surely at least one of you three freedom of speech advocates are up to the job?

  • Rhoda Klapp

    At least May is consistent. You want to pick who can march and who cannot, and your criteria boil down to people you approve of can march, and others not. Why do you not see that this is suppression of freedom? Look at the comments on the other thread. Try to understand what they are saying before you wind yourself into a knot.