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Friday, February 13, 2009

Chris Huhne was wrong to support the ban on Geert Wilders

It has been a busy few days and as a consequence I have not had the time to catch up with the details of the decision by the Home Secretary to prevent Dutch Freedom Party MP Geert Wilders from entering the country.

My instincts as ever in these situations is that this sort of ban is counter-productive. Fundamentally, it is wrong to seek to prevent somebody from expressing their point of view, no matter how offensive. That is an illiberal and anti-democratic act. If Geert Wilders has broken the law then arrest him and let him answer to the courts, otherwise leave him go about his business.

Even though Mr. Wilders himself does not believe in freedom of speech that is no reason to sink to his level. Once you start to apply qualitative tests to somebody's rights then you are on a very slippery slope and possibly sliding towards precisely the sort of society Geert Wilders advocates.

It is for this reason that I think that Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne is absolutely wrong to back the Home Secretary in this matter. According to Liberal Democrat Voice he described the film Dutch MP Geert Wilders planned to show to members of the House of Lords as “revolting”, and said there was a clear dividing line, “complete freedom of speech up to the point where you threaten others”. However, as I understand it there is no question that Mr. Wilders threatened anybody directly or broke the law.

Chris Huhne's revulsion is understandable but his stance is not a liberal one, being offended by someone is no reason to seek to suppress their rights. All that has been achieved here is more publicity for Geert Wilders and his obnoxious views.
this sort of ban is counter-productive
I quite agree. It's almost as if Jacqui Smith's civil servants wanted to give Wilders more publicity. It wouldn't surprise me.

What does surprise is how Chris Huhne got on the wrong side of this argument. The film was presumably shown to their Lordships anyway.
Doesn't Chris come from the social democrat tradition of the LDs, rather than the Liberal tradition? It doesn't usually matter much, but on questions such as this it sometimes shows.

I think natural liberals would have called this one correctly - Chris is great, but he got this wrong.
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