Happy Saint George’s Day!
On 18 April this self-explanatory open letter was sent to the Electoral Commission. How can democratic elections be held if parties are not even allowed to say in any explicit form in official documents what they stand for?
Dear Electoral Commissioners
I represent the political party Liberty GB, which is standing candidates in the South East of England in the forthcoming European Parliament election.
As part of our preparation for the election, I recently attempted to register a number of new party descriptions with the Electoral Commission. It was our intention to choose the best of these for printing on the ballot papers. In total, thirteen descriptions were submitted, of which all but three were rejected. Among the rejected descriptions were the following:
End multiculturalism, support Western civilisation.
No to Islamisation. Yes to Britain!
Immigration, no. Islamisation, no. Britain, yes!
Stop Britain becoming Islamic.
No to hate preachers, jihad, terrorism.
Safeguarding Britain's future, no to sharia.
The rejection letter (attached) received yesterday from the Electoral Commission sought to justify their decision on the basis that the descriptions are "likely to be … 'offensive'". No definition of "offensive" was offered, neither did the Commission give any indication as to who might in future be offended by these descriptions, nor indeed the basis for the prediction.
We find it difficult to imagine how any decent, law-abiding voter could be offended by a statement opposing "hate preachers, jihad, terrorism". Regarding opposition to sharia and to the Islamisation of Britain, these represent large, growing and evidence-based strands of public opinion – legitimate opinion that cannot be properly represented politically if its designating terms are censored out of electoral communications. Regarding multiculturalism, you may be aware that several European heads of state, including our very own Prime Minister, have publicly criticised it far more strongly than our first description above does. Is the Electoral Commission saying that it is legitimate for established politicians to express opposition to multiculturalism, but not those seeking elected office?
The Commission argues that within the rejected descriptions is an "implication that some [unspecified] groups in society were to be excluded, rejected, disparaged or disliked". In response, we would point out that even within the groups the Commission studiously avoids naming (we make an educated guess as to who they might be), there are significant strands of opposition to jihad, sharia, hate preachers, and indeed the Islamisation of Britain.
You surely do not need us to tell you that free elections depend upon the capacity of political parties and candidates to communicate clearly to the electorate what they stand for so that voters can make an informed choice at the ballot box.
Should not the broad strands of public opinion that Liberty GB represents be allowed expression in a free election? And is it not more than a little hypocritical of the Electoral Commission to be citing "freedom of expression" and "freedom of thought [and] belief" in the context of this censorial ruling?
The writer George Orwell said: "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." By prohibiting Liberty GB from expressing widely-held positions (that some unspecified group might or might not want to hear), the Electoral Commission strikes another small blow against freedom of speech in Britain – the central freedom that earlier generations of British people risked or gave their lives defending.
Consider this a formal complaint.
Dr George Whale
Nominating Officer, Liberty Great Britain