Cable: Counter-extremism bill will lead to “bland exchange of views” in universities

The Guardian reports:

The onus placed on universities by the government’s new counter-extremism strategy will lead to inoffensive and bland campus debates without preventing any student radicalisation, according to the former business secretary Vince Cable.

The former Liberal Democrat MP instead says that banning extremist speakers from universities may in fact exacerbate the problem by driving underground hitherto non-violent extremists.

In a speech to the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies on Tuesday, the former coalition cabinet minister will say that the new obligation on universities to balance free speech with counter-extremism is highly problematic.

“Instead of intellectual challenge there will be a bland exchange of views which are inoffensive and politically correct,” says Cable, according to an advance copy of his speech provided to the Guardian.

“This will not stop terrorism or terrorist recruitment, and may make the problem worse by driving underground those who are regarded as extreme but are currently non-violent.

“It seems highly likely that university authorities in particular will be risk averse and will seek to avoid the danger of legal action from the authorities in respect of extremist speakers.”

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  • On another thread the question was asked:

    “What are the big battles for liberty that we still need to fight and win?”

    I think this is a good example of how free speech is being constantly squeezed, under the Labour government, sadly under the coalition, and will accelerate under this Tory government.

    We seem to have been so complacent about this. You will see many comments on LDV that are very comfortable with the existing restrictions and I imagine give them a few years of these being in place would become comfortable with them too.

    We should be pushing hard in the other direction.

  • Richard Underhill 28th Oct '15 - 2:14pm

    Vince Cable might also be asked about what Lord Oakeshott said on the Daily Poitics this week.
    This is not an individual who can threaten the BBC with budget cuts or a reduction in role.
    He stood for election for the SDP (Alliance) in 1983 (not elected). His opinion polls showed that Vince Cable would have been more popular than Nick Clegg, but drill down into that, was he trying to end the coalition? or merely to change the leader? Were the two questions wrapped up into one?
    We should remember what Paddy Ashdown told the Guardian at a large fringe meeting at conference early in the coalition, which was that across the country Liberal Democrat councillors were in coalition with Tories in some places and withwith Labour in others. They had not had difficulty in ending these arrangements when necessary. Andrew Rawnsley seemed to be more interested in the scoop that Paddy had given him about Tony and Cherie Blair and Gordon Brown after the 2010 general election.

  • Eddie Sammon 28th Oct '15 - 3:36pm

    Of course non-violent extremists should not be targeted, but there’s no such thing as a non-violent ISIS, Boko Harem or al-Qaeda supporter etc.

    It’s not fair to give these people platforms.

  • Mick Taylor 28th Oct '15 - 5:07pm

    It is also stupid to censor people rather than subject their views to public scrutiny and debate. Was it not Voltaire who said ” I detest everything you stand for but I will fight to the death for your right to say it”. JS Mill argued that the limit on freedom should only be when one’s actions caused harm to other people.
    Liberalism is nothing if it’s not about free speech.

  • David Morrison 29th Oct '15 - 7:53pm

    I think Vince Cable completely misses the point. He seems not to realise that Islamic extremism is most certainly not being subjected to public scrutiny and debate on far too many of our campuses. Increasingly it’s only extremists who are being extended the benefit of free speech; and secularists, feminists and others who wish to challenge them are actively being prevented from doing so by hard left fanatics on the student union. As a liberal I have no objection to Islamists or any other extremists from exercising the right of free speech. However, that right also belongs to those of us who wish to challenge them. Unfortunately, that’s simply not happening and Vince Cable and other liberals need to understand this.

  • David Morrison

    “As a liberal I have no objection to Islamists or any other extremists from exercising the right of free speech. However, that right also belongs to those of us who wish to challenge them. Unfortunately, that’s simply not happening and Vince Cable and other liberals need to understand this.”

    And the reason it is so hard to challenge nut cases is because we already have so many restrictions on free speech. The government can’t see that you don’t defeat them by constantly restricting more and more you have to free everyone up. I can’t see how no one seems to have learnt from the Labour governments constant game of cat and mouse with Anjem Choudary.

    You can’t restrict the nasties out of influence what you can do is free everyone to push back.

  • In the late 1980s, early 1990s, the government banned various ‘extremist’ groups from the BBC and even confiscated journalistic material…
    This was a ‘win-win’ for the extremists who could complain about being banned but, after a ‘nasty incident’ use it as an excuse to try and defend their actions….

    Sadly, it’s often those who clamour the loudest for “free speech” who want opposing views to be banned…

  • should read..’to avoid having to defend’…

    Damn, that’s one of my three posts wasted!

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