Roger Roberts on breaking bones

Last week Roger Roberts spoke in the Lords debate on the Universal Declaration on Human Rights: Article 18. This is his speech:

I remember that when I was a child, we used to say in school, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me”.

The truth of course is that names can hurt and can lead to abusive and destructive actions. We should take great care what we say in our speeches—not only the content but the tone of our voices. I suggest that even Home Secretaries, sometimes, could think about what they are saying and the effect it will have, especially on vulnerable and sensitive people or on those who are in uncertain situations. The press, too, can sow seeds of anxiety in pursuing its own agenda. Think of Germany in the 1930s and the papers, and the daubing on the windows of shops: “Jews out”. That led to Kristallnacht and the Holocaust.

Words can break our bones—millions and millions of bones.

The first need is to respect those who differ from us and to not make scapegoats of them, for any reason whatever. Sometimes we or others might do this to further a religious cause or to advance our electoral or political prospects. We should avoid doing anything that causes people to lose their respect and dignity or that is a step towards them not achieving their potential. A massive step forward is how we teach our children. We can teach them, when they are in schools, churches, mosques and so on, to respect one another.

A subject that is causing a great deal of controversy and leading to bitterness at the moment is immigration. Some of our newspapers especially are guilty of not always quite telling the truth. When they talk about “swamping” Britain with asylum seekers, the truth is that of the EU countries, Britain stands 10th when it comes to the number of asylum seekers per head of population. You have to present facts that are real and true and can be respected. The Association of Chief Police Officers has stated that, “ill-informed, adverse media coverage … has contributed to heightened local tensions and resentment of asylum seekers”.

However, when the facts are presented positively, that can increase the respect that communities have towards one another and reduce tensions before they come to the breaking-bones stage.

I suggest to the Minister that we could try to include the facts on immigration and emigration in the school curriculum, . When that happens, people will be able to think, “This is the truth; this is something we can rely upon”, instead of having to rely upon stories that are often exaggerated or totally unhelpful. To reduce tensions we must stop shouting the names before we start breaking the bones.


* Lord Roberts of Llandudno is a Liberal Democrat Member of the House of Lords

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  • Spot on Roger, spot on.

  • Richard Underhill 26th Oct '15 - 9:01pm

    Some boats in the Med have reached the UK sovreign military base in Cyprus, small enclaves of land kept when the Republic of Cyprus became independent, parially used for flights over Iraq, bombing, and Syria, photography.
    The UK Defence Secretary is determined that they will not reach the UK. Cyprus is a bit reluctant to accept them, and at the minimum, wants to be paid. The main basis of our existing obligations under the 1951 UN refugee Convention is jurisdiction.

  • The problem we have is that we have been too tolerant hence how FGM was turned a blind eye to for far too long but hey only affected women. We have laws of equality that are ignored. Others do not teach tolerance and believe and teach that women are less than men and unbelievers further down. These beliefs are becoming stronger in our society and we should have no PC tolerance towards them. Asylum seekers are mistrusted because it is obvious that so many are economic migrants, solve that and people would be more tolerant. It is how much immigration that has been allowed that is the problem and the lack of integration due to the intransigent beliefs of immigrants who do not want our values and keep in their own areas which become no go for others. Schools have become immigrant only as the original inhabitants move out. Integration is impossible with this happening and without inter marriage will never happen. Religion is the problem.

  • Anne: FGM is wrong, but so is your attitude of collective blame. FGM is wrong not because it is against “our” values, but because it violates individual human rights. These are UNIVERSAL values. You rail against PC tolerance but you accept the claims that FGM and other vile so-called “cultural” practices is a valid part of the “culture” of certain groups. Well they are NOT, and anyone who claims that they are is supporting them, simple as that. That means you are supporting them. I am a liberal, and liberalism is the opposite of both racism and PC leftism. Both of these look at issues such as FGM in terms of group rights and values, and therefore are actually both from the same root. Liberalism is the opposite of both because it looks at the issues in terms of individuals, not groups.

  • Richard Underhill 27th Oct '15 - 6:28pm

    Anne 27th Oct ’15 – 9:56am FGM is torture. David Cameron has accepted that and said so at PMQ during the coalition. Mutilation of males does occur, please see Nelson Mandela’s memoirs, it happened to him as a teenager. An aspect of FGM is that young women are told by their mothers and grandmothers that otherwise they will not get a husband, which is traditionalist thining of the worst kind, The opposite is true. Why should a potential husband want a damaged wife?

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