The farcical use of “tolerance” as a reason to cancel a political debate involving UKIP at UEA

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November 30, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith

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The most depressing thing about the story (click here) of students at the University of East Anglia coming together to try and ban a political debate involving UKIP is that it was not surprising. That many of those on the left believe that freedom of speech only applies if you agree with their point of view is something I have had to get used to over the last 10 years after joining a profession that contains more than its fair share of left-leaning people.

The local UKIP general election candidate Steve Emmens, had been due to speak at an event organised by the university’s political debating society, but it was allegedly cancelled by the university as the ‘correct procedures’ hadn’t been followed. This apparently meant that the procedures require “that the event includes clear debate and challenge to the views of the external speaker via an opposing speaker chosen on the basis of robust and fair challenge.”

But what saddens and frustrates me most is the quote at the bottom of the article from the international student who organised the petition that led to the University initially cancelling the event. Timea Suli, a student liaison officer who already has a First Class BA in politics (I can only assume she missed the lectures on liberalism) from the university, said: “We are hoping to gain attention on the issue and encourage support from people who believe that UKIP do not deserve a podium at our tolerant campus.”

Yes, a legitimate political party who have been taking part in our democratic system now for 20 years, are our leading representatives in the European Parliament and have two Members of Parliament in the House of Commons were subject to a petition to ban them based upon the issue of “tolerance.” You almost couldn’t make it up. That this was led by someone who has actually studied Politics possibly shines a light on the quality of UEA’s politics teaching or Ms Suli’s intellect. But I don’t blame her actually, she is following the accepted procedures for those on the left who don’t like what someone is saying.

I don’t agree with almost anything UKIP are saying. They don’t speak to me at all. But they plainly do speak to many others. If you disagree with someone, debate with them. If you don’t like what they say, listen to them, read what they say, and develop arguments against them. If you feel that what they are saying may cause ‘intolerance’, at least respect the fact that they are using the Parliamentary system to say it. If you muzzle people, if you don’t allow democracy to work, they will use other means to get what they want and get their point across.

At the moment, the left are panicking about the potential loss of voters from Labour to UKIP. They are both panicking and bewildered. The reason it is happening (as I explained last week), is because those people, many of whom have been economically dispossessed by the consequences of policies that Labour have supported, are being pointed at and laughed at by Labour, instead of talked to and listened to. When they see something like this, they will see once more that the left have no interest in them, and more economically disadvantaged people will vote for a party that believes in flat taxes, a health service based on private insurance, and removing the investment, economic growth and jobs created by being part of the EU.

UKIP, whether we like it or not, are shining a light on our political system, and we may not like what we see, but we have to adapt to it. By closing our ears, shutting our eyes and hoping they go away we will only make them stronger. By opening our ears and eyes and properly challenging their arguments we can stop their advance.

My final question is this. If UEA students want to ban political parties from speaking who preach intolerance, can I assume no religious groups of any fundamentalist persuasion would be allowed there too? Particularly those religiously fundamentalist groups traditionally supported by the left? What do you think?

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5 thoughts on “The farcical use of “tolerance” as a reason to cancel a political debate involving UKIP at UEA

  1. tallbloke says:

    The student concerned with banning UKIP from debate has a record for police assault at a UAF demo.

    “more economically disadvantaged people will vote for a party that believes in flat taxes, a health service based on private insurance, and removing the investment, economic growth and jobs created by being part of the EU.”

    I’d like to correct the factual inaccuracies and half-truths here.

    1) UKIP’s aspiration is for a simplified tax system less expensive to administrate, however, for now there are similar bands to those which already exist plus UKIP proposed to take all minimum wage earners out of the tax system altogether long before other parties stole the idea.

    2) Farage talked about health insurance models during the policy debate in 2012. The idea was rejected and UKIP’s policy is to keep the NHS free at the point of delivery for those who have paid in to the system. However, UKIP believe the NHS should be what it says it is, a National Health Service, not an International Health Service. So foreign visitors and migrants will need to show valid health insurance on entry to the country.

    3) We have a large balance of trade deficit with the rest of the EU. They will not stop trading with us or impose onerous tariffs after we leave, because it will hurt their economies more than ours.

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    • Thanks. One of the problems of the debate with UKIP being purely on EU and immigration at the moment, partly because of it being where UKIP are comfortable but also because of decisions like the UEA students’ one to exclude them from political debates is that as you are explaining I don’t really know enough or understand enough about their policies outside the EU and immigration. It appears to me that anytime they have a policy that might be politically toxic, they flip flop and backtrack rather than having the courage of their convictions. I look forward to more debating on this.

      On the topic of flat tax. YES, it is cheaper to administrate, but I think the extra costs of administration (which aren’t massive as it can all be done by computer) are worth the fairness of putting a larger burden on the shoulders of those more able to afford it.

      On the NHS, yes, we have to address the abuses of it, particularly of any so called health tourists who have contributed little by way of national insurance but come to be treated. You come up with a policy prescription on that…like the E111 card that we are supposed to get before travelling to the EU. Of course, that isn’t compulsory. Question for you…if I go to Spain, fall ill and show my E111 card, does the British NHS get charged for my treatment?

      As for the EU. Yes, they won’t stop trading with us. Yes, they need us. But re read what you are saying and can you see how much you sound like Alex Salmond before the referendum? “Negative consequences? Stop scaremongering!” What is needed is a proper open debate on the positive and negative consequences of leaving the EU, which may for instance mean that open minded people like I like to think I am might change their minds.

      Ultimately, UKIP started as a pressure group on the EU. They turned into a political party as they realised they were more likely to achieve their aims, and have been very successful. But my concern is that we could have a one issue party in government, and governments have to do many things, not just EU and immigration.

      Anyway, thanks for your input. Sorry if you feel I have been inaccurate. It’s just my view of what is going on

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      • tallbloke says:

        Thanks for publishing my comment and replying.
        It’s true that UKIP policy has changed. This reflects the fact that it is internally democratic (national exec is elected by membership), and its membership demographic is rapidly changing to a more inclusive mix encompassing people who used to vote for all the old legacy parties, a larger percentage of women and minority religious group members. We treat them all with mutual respect and dignity. My own branch has Polish, Pakistani-heritage and African heritage members, one of whom is an MEP, and more of whom are local council candidates.

        So policy change isn’t so much a ‘flip-flopping’ as a response to the wishes of the membership, who more and more reflect the broad mix of opinion in the country. This necessarily takes UKIP in the direction of pragmatism and compromise rather than a particular ideological purity, which most of us regard as a good thing.

        The interesting thing is that far from this internal variety of opinion leading to policy paralysis as it has in the Tory and Labour parties, it has galvanised UKIP into producing an evolving policy smorgasbord which the public likes.

        Perhaps UKIP has the luxury that since it won’t be forming a government itself, it can be more relaxed about inconsistency or U-turns in policy terms than the Tories or Labour can be. After all, we are the gadflys and they are the ‘serious parties of government’. This gives us the freedom to fly kites, test public reaction and adjust and hone policy to best serves the wishes of the electorate. I think UKIP shuld be praised rather than castigated for taking advantage of their situation to better serve the public interest.

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      • An interesting point of view on changing policies to suit public opinion. Would you not agree that this smells a little bit too much of UKIP leadership saying “there go my people, and I must follow them, for I am their leader?”

        If politicians change their policy from day to day according to the public wishes, are they not just going to become short term populists? Aren’t they going to allow the majority to tyrannize the minority (eg gay marriage) without using their responsibility under our representative democracy system to exercise their own judgement?

        You say that they are unlikely to end up in government. I don’t know about that. I think that they could well have 20 MPs in May and be in a position to decide who forms a government, either through coalition or through confidence and supply. Therefore having a policy platform that doesn’t change with the wind does matter in my view.

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  2. tallbloke says:

    The UKIP leadership leads the party, it does not (yet) lead the country and has no immediate prospect of doing so. If UKIP were to hold the balance of power after the 2015 GE, then it would be on a confidence and supply basis, not as part of a coalition. So we would be in a position where we would have to support another party’s policy agenda in order to win concessions on what we see as being of priority to serve the public interest (our judgement).

    So we are not going to deceive the public by telling them we can achieve all the things they tell us they want. UKIP is straight talking and honest in this respect. The public in turn respects us for being honest with them, and tell us they will vote for us because we are holding true to our long term aim of leading Britain out of the failing, tyrannical EU, not because we pander to short term issues.

    “responsibility under our representative democracy system to exercise their own judgement?”

    The way this has worked under successive Tory and Labour governments is that in their election campaigns they make the public a pack of promises and then renege on them in power.

    UKIP takes the representative part of representative deocracy seriously, and also has a policy of instituting direct democracy whereby people will get more of a say regarding local issues on a more frequent basis through local referenda. We also supported the Goldsmith amendment to the recall bill. Giving power to the people is what UKIP is about. Locally elected county health boards with budgetary control being another example.

    “allow the majority to tyrannize the minority (eg gay marriage)”

    UKIP believes in choice and freedom. If people are to be free to marry people of the same sex, then those people should respect the need to find a sympathetic priest or other official to perform the ceremony, not tyrannise traditionalists with threats of legal action for refusing to do so.

    Tolerance cuts both ways.

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