Identity politics is spelling disaster for free speech in Wales
And you thought it was just Rod Liddle they were trying to silence...
Hate has to be the most subjective damn term to enter our politics in the past few years as an excuse to shut people up. Entirely self-described, the reality that anyone might be accused of being motivated by hate continues to drive the suppression of free speech across the Anglosphere, and free speech in Wales, particularly in the realm of “minority rights”.
For those not versed in leftist speak, minorities can also constitute majorities, like women. They can also constitute whole nations, like Wales, thus making the Welsh a ‘minority’ in the minds of the more nationalist fringe of Welsh politics. In other words, for some on the fringe left, you don’t even have to be a minority to be a minority. Fancy that?
You’d be forgiven for wondering why in the 45 years (and counting, Theresa…) we’ve been members of the EEC/European Union, none of these people have ever considered Britain or the British a minority in the same way they do the Welsh. Though don’t expect to see them handing in their victim cards upon achieving independence. The sweet, tempting allure of cowering behind victimhood and thus avoiding the need for rationale and argument remains too strong for these fruit flies, buzzing as they do around the next issue in which they can brandish their victim card and shut down the debate.
We saw a glimpse of this on the BBC Daily Politics, when Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts, in a moment of blinkered and quite despicable identity politics, argued that Rod Liddle should possibly go to prison for having the audacity to make jokes about the Welsh language. She made the same argument that is often made when people, with an insecure sense of their identity, attempt to strengthen their resolve by using the full force of the law to prevent any dissent. We see this a lot with Islam, it’s nothing new.
Thankfully, the Daily Politics audience were honoured to witness a masterclass by freedom-lover and troublemaker James Delingpole, who, with the perfect level of sniggering and condescension, illustrated the sheer ridiculousness of Liz Saville Roberts’ arguments. They were obviously ridiculous. Predacated on the assumption that Welsh was the new black and Rod Liddle was the new KKK, she sought to elevate Welsh nationality to a form of racial identity. Combine this with the belief that group rights should trump individual rights; the defining ethic of identity politics, it was all too easy for the nationalist MP to think Rod Liddle has no individual right to free speech and that anything other than legally preventing criticism amounts to condoning racism.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Rod Liddle had called for Wales to be nuked and its entire population disintegrated into bone-dust than that he’d poked fun at the Welsh language’s often humerously difficult use of vowels and called it a third-world country. On that last point he’ll probably be right if the Welsh Government continues to run the country as it has for the past 20 years, but that’s an argument for another time.
This is but one national example of how identity politics under the guise of “minority rights” can be effectively used to ride roughshod over individual rights. The problem, at least for anyone concerned with free speech as an absolute right, is that the views of Liz Saville Roberts have much greater influence in the devolved administration of Wales.
I raise these points because it is my contention that the defining ethic of identity politics; that group rights trump individual rights, has reached the very highest levels of Welsh politics, which has already had, and I believe will continue to have, disastrous consequences for free speech in Wales.
The mother of Parliaments, the House of Commons in Westminster, has very specific rules regarding what MPs can and cannot say. Their conduct regarding good manners is strict, but it is one of the features that free speech is protected to an even greater extent in Parliament than in public; thus a member of Parliament is, for example, not subject to libel law when speaking in the House. These measures have developed over centuries and stand as a perfect illustration of how the gradual, rather than the sudden, is infinetely superior.
These protections do not exist in the Welsh Assembly, a haphazard place of muddled rules with a monumental provision for the Presiding Officer (the bureaucratic Welsh equivalent of the speaker) to make it up on the hoof. The current Presiding Officer, Elin Jones, has a history of controversy, including on the fundamental issue of rightful government, as she allowed the withdrawal of a nominated candidate for First Minister despite no outlined procedure allowing it.
This brings me to the key issue of free speech in Wales. In Scotland, you can be prosecuted for making a distasteful joke involving a dog. In England, you can be prosecuted for being mean on Twitter. In Wales our own parliamentarians are not immune from being silenced, even when giving an honest view on an issue.
The banning of UKIP AM Gareth Bennett from speaking in the Welsh Assembly should alarm everyone, conservative or not, who believes that elected representatives must have an absolute right to represent their constituents by being allowed to speak their mind. Why was he banned? He said the following regarding Transgenderism:
If we carry on down this road of appeasing the nuttiest elements of the transgender movement then what we will face as a society, within a very short space of time, is total implosion. There is only so much deviation from the norm that any society can take before that society completely implodes.
Gareth Bennett, UKIP AM
The response was, as expected, the identity politics trick. Members accused Gareth Bennett of being “hateful”, “homophobic” and much more. In response to the outrage at an elected member speaking his mind, the Presiding Officer released this statement:
Some of the comments were particularly hateful to the transgender community. This chamber is not here to demean citizens of Wales and everybody deserves the right to respect and understanding.
Elin Jones, Presiding Officer
The reserved UKIP AM was then told he would be banned from speaking for the entirety of 2018, unless he scurries to the Assembly, with his tail between his legs and begs the Assembly’s speech dictator for mercy, which he, quite annoyingly but probably sensibly, agreed to.
To justify banning an elected representative from speaking in the Assembly, depriving thousands of constituents their voice, on faulty assumptions of motives and identity politics is farcical. Identity politics rings through the Presiding Officer’s statement which dealt such a blow to free speech in Wales. She spoke not of individuals, but of groups, and determined that the “transgender community” (whatever the hell that is) had more of a right not to be offended than he had a right to speak his mind.
When Welsh people see their elected representatives being denied the right to exercise that which they were elected to do; speak, how can any citizen in Wales feel confident in exercising that right? This is the single most worrying development in Welsh politics, arguable since the Assembly’s inception, and where is the media outrage? Suprise, surpise – there isn’t one. The media in Wales are too busy either pushing an overtly leftist perspective which supports this nonsense or are too ‘impartial’ to defend fundamental Welsh, and British rights.
The fight for free speech in Wales has no friends in media, no friends in government and no friends in procedure in Parliament. Some would be forgiven for wondering whether free speech in Wales existed at all, this case gives you that answer.
George Orwell once said that that which cannot be expressed cannot be thought. It’s a real shame that the Welsh Assembly appears to lack the ability to think, and is now in the process of forcing those who can to shut-up.