Now they want to outlaw non-violent political groups

A report from the Tony Blair Institute proposes some alarming new forms of censorship.

Andrew Tettenborn


Our freedom from government interference – our freedom to speak, to campaign and to operate as we please outside of the reach of the state – is under constant assault today. A recent report from the grandly named Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, titled New Policy Responses to Stop Hate Crime, is just the latest example of this.

Its suggestions for further restrictions on what we can say about people’s religion are bad enough, and blur the line between anti-religious speech and blatantly racist speech. But the proposals about hate groups are even more disconcerting. Put bluntly, the report’s complaint is that the government does not have enough powers to make life difficult for organisations that promote views we don’t like, and so it ought to award itself some more.

The problem, as the institute sees it, is this: too many groups, such as Britain First or Generation Identity, promote odious ideas, but remain annoyingly non-violent. Which means they cannot just be summarily banned under current anti-terror legislation that allows for the censorship of violence-inciting speech. The institute’s modest proposal to deal with this alleged difficulty is a ‘new tier of hate-group designation’, which could be proudly announced as the ‘first of its kind in Europe’.

Available by Home Office fiat, such designations would be based on the fairly vague claim that a group might ‘demonise specific groups on the basis of their race, religious [faith], gender, nationality or sexuality’, or be guilty of ‘disproportionately blaming specific groups (based on religion, race, gender or nationality) for broader societal issues’. Or they might be regarded as ‘aligning with extremist ideologies, though not inciting violence’.

What would be the impact on a group that was designated as hateful? The report is short on detail, but it speaks in terms of such groups ‘not [being] allowed to use media outlets or speak at universities’, and not being allowed to ‘engage, work with or for public institutions’. They would be ‘suspended from the electoral roll’. (This is an odd phrase showing, perhaps, evidence of over-hasty writing. Presumably, it means the groups would be deregistered as political parties.) The designated groups would also be banned from holding any public marches at all.

This is all quite mild, the report insists. Group members would still, graciously, be allowed to meet in private. And any new offences to back up the proposed prohibition on hate groups would be ‘civil, not criminal’. Oh, and there would be an incitement to virtue, too. Groups might be given back their privileges, rather like errant schoolboys who showed good behaviour, if they mended their ways and became more enlightened.

Where to start with all this? The first thing to note is that these measures are envisaged as applying to organisations operating entirely within the law. What we are talking about here is the introduction of powers to impose severe restrictions on the activities of lawful groups; groups that are neither violent nor dedicated to criminal activity.

Despite the report’s protestations, the restrictions are severe. Preventing a group from taking part in any procession, excluding it from addressing students and banning it from democratic activity as a political party are essentially telling that group that it may only operate in private.

It gets worse. Consider the words ‘not allowed to use media outlets’. Are broadcasters now to be automatically penalised by Ofcom if they publicise the views of a government-disapproved body? Will we reach the position of old Eastern European dictatorships and punish newspapers for publishing material from specific groups? As for the comforting statement that any offences created would be civil not criminal, don’t be taken in. If anything, this would make it even easier to assert state control over certain political groups, as it would mean that fines could be levied and bans enforced without the need to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Think about what kind of activity might fall under the ban. What about a Christian evangelical group known for its strong views on transgenderism? Could it be driven from public life until it mended its ways? On the other side, what of pro-choice activists who regularly call out what they see as the medieval bigotry of the Catholic Church on reproductive matters, or a group of gay-rights supporters who attack the Koran for its uncompromising view on homosexuality? Might they be found guilty of disproportionately blaming a religious group for societal ills and find themselves banned?

We need to criticise and challenge proposals like these long before they become law.

Andrew Tettenborn is a professor of commercial law.

Picture by: Getty

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Hugh Bryant

2nd October 2019 at 10:30 pm

I thought we got rid of the creep Blair at least a decade ago. But no – it seems that nothing less than a stake through the heart will do the job.

Brandy Cluster

2nd October 2019 at 11:43 pm

I think we’re all desperate for a leader; a leader with chops, with dignity, with integrity and rock solid values which “look on tempests and is never shaken” (Donne). In the meantime the world is over-populated with shallow, narcissistic, relevance-deprived celebrities who demonstrate – the minute they open their mouths – that it would have been better if they had not!!!

Janet Mozelewski

2nd October 2019 at 11:16 am

This is all of a piece with the Liberal-leftie-elite opinion post-referendum. That people who voted ‘the wrong’ way should have their right to vote revoked. Because clearly we are all racist, or too stupid, too old, too ignorant, or just too wrong to deserve one. It always made me roll my eyes that people who supported these elitist ideas thought that simply supporting those proposals made them somehow part of the elite gang. And it never occurred to them that they would one day be a victim of the very same thing they were applauding. They didn’t see that the constrictor on our freedom would simply tighten its grip again and again and again. So much for being brighter than the rest of us.
So it is with this. Niemoller Syndrome.

David Hume

1st October 2019 at 10:02 am

“First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.

Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.

Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds.

And not only this, but,

Fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.”

– John Stuart Mil

John Millson

1st October 2019 at 8:03 am

“We define a hate group as:
Spreading intolerance and antipathy towards people of a different race, religion, gender or nationality, specifically because of these characteristics
Aligning with extremist ideologies (see Appendix, for examples of far-right and Islamist worldviews), though not inciting violence
Committing hate crimes or inspiring others to do so via hate speech
Disproportionately blaming specific groups (based on religion, race, gender or nationality) for broader societal issues”
Personally don’t have a problem with coming down on Islamist groups who set out to destroy so it should be the same for potentially violent white racists. Same coin.

steve moxon

30th September 2019 at 10:16 pm

The ‘identity politics’ totalitatarian — ‘PC’-fascist — state is bound to go this way, given the unsustainability of the completely false ideology the whole of the elite has stupidly bought.
As I’ve long said, the ideology is now so deep-seated and all-pervasive that the ‘groupthink’ is going exponential.
People are going to be imprisoned, denied any employment, prevented from having any civic life; few in number at first, then in large numbers. When that doesn’t work, and it just provokes ever rising hostility in reply — how could it do otherwise? — people are going to be killed, first in small numbers, then in large numbers.
It is surely destined to end in civil strife on its own, but it won’t be on its own; it’ll be combined with the failure of government in all its activity as we see already, together with the coming likely series of huge global economic crashes as the finance leverage ponzi schemes collapse ….. well, you tell me the likely future. Civil war?

Andrew Leonard

1st October 2019 at 2:53 am

I find it both interesting and terrifying, how common this idea that the West is headed for strife, is becoming. Its an idea that doesn’t seem to be limited to one particular political group, its pretty much across the board.
A mere decade ago, Western culture seemed to be going along okay. Even the reactions to the global financial crisis were fairly civilised, generally speaking.
What has happened?
Has many decades of Cultural Marxist indoctrination in universities, finally started to catch up with us? Are the foundations of Western society, starting to creak under the weight of hostile ideology?

steve moxon

1st October 2019 at 8:43 am

Yes, indeed, re ‘cultural Marxism’ (which IS a useful label); but no, the foundations of Western society are not creaking. The foundations of society are common across culture anyway, and are endlessly renewable, being biology at root and in action. They never ‘creak’. All that creaks is ideological superstructure. Stupid politics is always going to implode, and no politics has been stupider than ‘identity politics’ / ‘PC’.

Jerry Owen

4th October 2019 at 2:41 pm

S Moxon
Only just read this… my beliefs exactly !

Ven Oods

30th September 2019 at 7:27 pm

The Blair Institute is keen to demonize non-violent groups while simultaneously keeping at large a lying weasel who wanted to bomb Iraq, along with his good-ol’-boy buddy, Dubya.

Major Bonkers

30th September 2019 at 6:59 pm

The problem is that existing ‘hate’ laws are already too strictly drawn:

The sensible answer is for full US-style free speech liberty. Trust the people, who are quite able to discern bigotry or stupidity without politicians constraining the sphere of public discourse.

After all, how can you have a democracy if speech and opinions are curtailed in this way?

Neil McCaughan

30th September 2019 at 5:37 pm

We should now be moving to an outright ban on Tony Blair. And everything he stands for, and everyone he stands with.

Hana Jinks

30th September 2019 at 5:22 pm

This is about these creeps finding a way to silence opposition to the importation of i slam.

I slam is well capable of taking care of any dissent itself…usually with a quick stabbing. Why would any country be wanting to import this? What has happened to Britain? Why are these politicians ring-fencing these savages? Disgraceful. How much protection would l get speaking my mind in the Edgeware Road these days? The mosques need to be destroyed and it’s proponents rounded up and sent to Germany.

Michael Taylor

30th September 2019 at 2:25 pm

This sort of tyrannical behaviour is merely a logical extension of the liberal agenda. So far as I know, there is now only one party which recognizes and fights back against this, and it’s the Social Democrats. Spiked reader . . . you should join us.

Forlorn Dream

30th September 2019 at 12:53 pm

Would the ‘Religion of Peace’ be banned under these new laws? It seems to tick all the criteria listed above.

Amelia Cantor

30th September 2019 at 10:38 am

Our freedom from government interference – our freedom to speak, to campaign and to operate as we please outside of the reach of the state – is under constant assault today.

And quite right too. All vulnerable communities — the black community, the Muslim community, the Jewish community,, the LGBTQIA+ community — and their champions in the Democrats and Labour party have absolutely no time for hideously white concepts like “free speech” and “open debate”. They know where “free speech” led before and will lead again if it’s not crushed in its tracks: to the Holocaust.

Thor Halland

30th September 2019 at 4:19 pm

I sincerely hope this is which case I applaud you but sadly suspect that is it’s not. The idea that Antisemitism is opposed by Labour is so.egregious as to be risable which someone Jewish liked you should be aware of

Noggin The nog

30th September 2019 at 4:42 pm

” hideously white concepts like “free speech” and “open debate”. This comment appears to be a tad racist. Shame on you.

Andrew Leonard

30th September 2019 at 4:45 pm

“the black community, the Muslim community, the Jewish community,, the LGBTQIA+ community[s]”

… do not exist. These are abstract non-entities. Just as “The Proletariat” is not the actual working class, so are these “communities” not the set of people their names would suggest they are. They are instead, just the mental play things of zealots like Amelia Cantor and her University comrades.

“They know where “free speech” led before and will lead again if it’s not crushed in its tracks: to the Holocaust.”

We must allow those girls and young women in the northern towns to continue to be drugged and raped, with no criticism of the men involved, their ethnic background, or their religion. Otherwise there will be a holocaust.

What sort of bent mind thinks like this? Does it make any of these Woke lunatics wonder that post-WW2 Western societies have enjoyed the greatest freedom of speech in world history, and yet have somehow managed this without anyone even advocating the use of Zyklon B? They must find the world very confusing!

So tell me Amelia, will heavy restrictions on free speech also save us from Communism?

steve moxon

30th September 2019 at 10:40 pm

Cant by name cant, cant — and a word replacing the ‘a’ with a ‘u’ — by nature.
You’re a fascist bigoted idiot.

Eliot Jordan

30th September 2019 at 8:51 am

This would of course be deeadful but one happy by-product should be the outlawing of the SNP

Jane 70

30th September 2019 at 12:37 pm

If only

Right Now

30th September 2019 at 4:14 am

Re “Disproportionately blaming specific groups . . . for broader societal issues” :

Who decides what constitutes a “proportionate” allocation of blame? I’d wager that arguing that “white privilege” harms society wouldn’t fall foul of the legislation.

Amelia Cantor

30th September 2019 at 10:40 am

Of course it wouldn’t. The truth and the arguments to improve society should never be silenced. In complete contrast, racism, anti-semitism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and Islamophobia should ALWAYS be silenced, because they are always based on lies and the desire to harm.

Andrew Leonard

30th September 2019 at 4:50 pm

Islam is antisemitic, Feminists are sexist, and you are racist

Ven Oods

30th September 2019 at 7:31 pm

“and you are racist”
Not to mention a predictable bore.

steve moxon

30th September 2019 at 10:33 pm

Utterly false perspective. The problem is the hate-mongering nonsense that is ‘identity politics’ / ‘PC’/ You’re a fascist ogre.

H McLean

30th September 2019 at 11:47 pm

Folks, Amelia Cantor is a provocative troll. We would all be better served by ignoring it completely and not responding to it’s comments.

Noggin The nog

1st October 2019 at 2:20 am

H Mclean. Could not agree with you more. I would include the name (?) Steve Moxon in your sensible suggestion.

Andrew Leonard

1st October 2019 at 2:56 am

With respect, I don’t think she’s a troll at all.
She’s a very typical Social Justice Warrior, with all the typical SJW assumptions and prejudices.
Ideological zealots like Amelia Cantor must be challenged, not ignored.

steve moxon

1st October 2019 at 8:46 am

Noggin hasn’t got one, apparently.

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