Europe and free speech…

What an amazing and courageous act by the French police officer in Trèbes this week. The word ‘hero’ is used so widely the days that it often looses its real meanin…however in this case, it seems highly appropriate. In one sense people may feel that the terrorist is dead and ‘got what he deserved’, however the problem with this and other islamic-related terrorism which we all face, is that death for them is a good outcome as they are – in their ‘16th century way of thinking’ – martyrs. I am not sure how ‘western society’ can and will reconcile this, in term of justice and perhaps any retribution or ‘moral revenge’ that is needed by the societies affected.

According to William Randolph Hearst, “Freedom of speech is not only the boon but the basis of democracy – not only the gift but the guarantee of liberty and security – not only the privilege but the protection of a free people”. This is interesting and, of course, is largely true. However the line between what is and what isn’t free speech seems blurred or rather too flexible these days in a time of changing and perhaps declining, values. Recent examples of free speech from its ‘home’ at speakers corner in London, would indicate that what was reasonable and acceptable, no longer seems so and must be controlled, but by whom? In the recent case, clearly by the police acting according to government policy and a rather overblown nanny state? The parameters of the ‘realm’ of what is and what is not ‘acceptable’, are now moving ever closer to (or being driven towards) our own private lives and homes and begin to resemble scenarios predicted in 1984 by George Orwell.

In the light of the events in Trèbes, we need to look carefully at the differences between ‘free action’ and free speech, as the consequences of both are becoming – or being driven – much closer.

A grey day…

Rather grey outside…and the world in general perhaps.

Brexit continues to dominate the news and directly and indirectly a lot of parliamentary time. I saw a poll (yes of course it’s only a poll!) suggesting that, across all sectors and regions, people just want to get on with it now, regardless of their preference in the referendum. Perhaps this is because people are bored with the constant media (especially BBC) attention, often when there is little or no news?

I quite like or even admire Jacob Rees-Mogg, but the demonstration on the Thames this week, where he and others threw some fish into the river, seems a little unnecessary, not least because it was a waste of fish and also, as I understand it, the only issue is the 21 month delay to exiting the EU on this issue.

I have just been reading Sadiq Khan’s new draft strategy on ‘culture’ for London and was fascinated to see that, in the executive summary (and let’s face it people will only read that) there are only pictures of people ‘of one colour’. Hardly what one might describe as a ‘balanced’ presentation of the nation’s capital?

My local town is going through a navel-gazing exercise at the moment (with the help of expensive consultants of course) about what can be done to take the centre forward. Lots of discussion about pedestrian precincts and pedestrianising roads. Having witnessed the latter in many other places, this just seems to kill off trade and as a consequence the town centres themselves. As the town prides itself on being a “one off”, this all seems somewhat misguided. Then there is the fact that Council had to get rid of some of its off-shore capital, so it purchased some shopping centres in the town…just at the time that retail is under serious threat from online shopping. Shopping centres are hardly ‘one offs’!