To diminish the freedoms of a society, it is first necessary to limit the abilities and opportunities of those who would oppose. The curtailing of speech – and by extension thought – is reaching a peak; with the full support of government and media, the ability to express ideas is slowly but inexorably taking us down a dark path of totalitarian control. Such direct control over expression is the latest weapon in a quiet war, and UKIP are the vanguard in the fightback.
At the South East conference beginning 12th of July in Eastbourne, free speech came under attack. Author and journalist, Katie Hopkins, had been invited to speak on issues such as freedom of expression and fighting the good fight. In what was perhaps a case of unintended irony, the venue named The Welcome Building informed the organisers that the event would not be able to go ahead with Hopkins’ involvement. What is perhaps more disturbing, is that The Welcome Building is run by the local council.
The venue for the Gala Dinner also cancelled without reason.
Hopkins, reacting to the cancellation, said: “I am undeterred. The more the left try to silence us, the louder we become… We will prevail and I will be heard. When we leave the EU - as we surely will - it will be thanks to the stoicism and tenacity of the UKIP faithful… The small-minded councillors of Eastbourne are truly insignificant by comparison.”
Ian Garbutt, Treasurer for SECOM, had the unenviable task of dealing with the fallout.
As to why the council had decided to put constraints on the UKIP event, Garbutt suggests that it came in response to the Facebook group Stand Up To Racism Brighton and Hove, who had been rallying its supporters to go along and “milkshake” attendees. In fact, on their Facebook page, they claimed credit for the cancellation:
Many thanks to all of those who supported our planned Stand Up to Racism protest this Friday (and were getting ready with placards and milkshakes) - in case you have not seen the news - we have had a great little local victory - the far right commentator Katie Hopkins has been blocked from addressing UKIP's South East regional conference in Eastbourne this weekend.”
But who are Stand Up To Racism, and how is it they have such power and sway with local councils? A brief search of their website shows that the President of the organisation is none other than Labour frontbench MP, Dianne Abbott. As one of the Vice-Chairs is Labour Member of Parliament Kate Osamor, who resigned her Shadow Cabinet role last year after denying she knew of her son’s drug conviction (who was, by the way, employed as a communications officer), despite sending a letter asking for leniency.
This assault on free speech was not the machinations of a petty, small-minded local council, but rather the capitulation in the face of the Labour Party to carry out a political attack against those that seek to speak their minds.
Thanks to the indomitable spirit and determination of UKIP SECOM, the event went ahead using a different venue to host Katie Hopkins’ Gala Dinner speech. Yet this is not a situation that a legitimate political party should ever have to face.
This was a case of government-backed organisations fighting a quiet war of intimidation to restrict the freedoms of individuals. It is a mark of totalitarianism that is becoming all too common. If this fight is not won now, there may be no further options of retaliation in the future.