David Allen recently wrote that supporting Stephen Gough, known as the Naked Rambler was a cause for “fundementalist liberals”. This isn’t a case of moderates versus fundementalists, it’s a case that all good liberals should support.
As liberals most of us will accept some degree of the Harm Principle, that people should roughly be able to do what they want as long as they don’t hurt others. Taking this basic principle into consideration there is no possible harm that anyone can do simply by the act of being nude within public. If we want to shed our clothes and our Victorian attitudes I see no good reason why we shouldn’t.
Mr Allen notes that Mr Gough was told he couldn’t walk near a child’s playground. Whilst this may seem reasonably upon the surface, there underlies a startlingly ignorant assumption – that there may be paedophilic motives for doing so – or indeed paedophilic outcomes. The desire to be nude in public (and indeed in nudist areas) is absolutely not the same in anyway shape or form to the desiring of or sexual urges towards children. I repeat, there is no link to how one dresses (or chooses not to) to one’s sexual desires. It’s a shame that Mr Allen indulges these prejudices within his piece.
Mr Allen also contends that it is the rights of parents to stop their children from seeing naked people. To some extent I agree, if parents don’t want their children seeing nudity – they can monitor them and withdraw them from situations. However, I beg the question where does this draw the line in law? What if strict religious parents don’t wish their children to see shirtless men on a hot day, should they be banned, arrested and tarred with the paedophile brush? There is no end to the amount of things to be offended by. Let us withdraw from this rather authoritarian path
Finally, Stephen Tall sums it up best in his piece for Centre Forum
[Gough's] single-minded desire pursuit of personal freedom deserves a respect we’re denying him.
“Moderate Liberals” and Mr Allen should take note.
* Andrew Emmerson is a Liberal Democrat activist from the North of England