Tolerance and free speech

When I joined the Liberal Party, as a young Liberal, in 1964, I joined a party that wanted to build a society where all possessed liberty and none should be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

The party expected broad agreement with the ideas of a Liberal society but tolerated people who had a variety of views on the issues of the day.

So, whilst the majority view in the party was against capital punishment, in favour of legalising abortion, divorce law reform, decriminalisation of consenting homosexual relations between adults and of joining the EEC, there were those who differed from majority party opinion on any of these issues and argued them passionately.

MPs were expected to follow their consciences on social issues and were not whipped on them.

No-one felt that there was anything wrong with that Liberal approach and MPs were not criticised for holding minority opinions on social issues.

It is also worth noting that Liberal MPs were also not afraid to stand out against public opinion on several issues, most notably on the disgraceful Kenya Immigration Bill in 1968 put forward by the Labour Government.

Whilst many of us sought to persuade people in the party with whom we disagreed, we did so respectfully and accepted rejection.

With the greatest respect, I would argue that many newer members of our party have no historical context in which to place today’s policy issues and have little appreciation of the way a tolerant Liberal Party can or should operate.

We have moved on a great deal since my teens and many of the great social issues of the time were resolved – or at least we thought they had been until this appalling government started to roll the clock back – and the party has accepted that certain restrictions on freedom of speech are a necessary part of a civilised society. Thus, the party has supported moves to give more equality to women and minorities and to ban many aspects of hate speech and discriminatory behaviour.

Unfortunately, in recent times there has been an unfortunate tendency in our party towards intolerance of those whose views do not exactly mirror what some activists think they should be. This has been noticeable regarding the views of committed Christians, most noticeably about our then leader Tim Farron during the 2017 election. It is also noticeable with regard to some issues around the Trans Community.

In our party we expect to disagree about some issues. We are Liberals. It goes with the territory. What is not acceptable is abuse and vilification of those with whom we disagree or calls for their expulsion. I listened recently to a New Year message from former Tory MP and Speaker John Bercow, now a Labour supporter, who summed it up very nicely for me. “We must learn to disagree, agreeably.” In the Liberal Party we had that skill, but I fear many in the Liberal Democrats have lost it.

I hope that 2022 will be the year in which we all turn our backs on this sort of intolerant behaviour and start treating people with whom we disagree with respect. We might also resolve to make sure we have ALL the facts before rushing into print, especially before we comment on allegations on social media by our political opponents, that have little purpose except to divide us.

When I have a disagreement with a senior member of the party, I do not rush to publish that disagreement on social media, because doing so potentially does harm to our cause. I seek instead to make my disagreement clear to the person concerned and seek to engage them in discussion privately. I recommend this to other members of the party, especially during an election campaign, when, regardless of single issues, we should all be putting our efforts into winning seats not criticising our candidates and our leader. There’s plenty of time to do that afterwards. Please remember that a Liberal Democrat MP who disagrees with you on a single issue or even 2 or 3, is going to be infinitely better than either a Tory or Labour MP in almost any circumstance imaginable.

* Dr Michael Taylor has been a party member since 1964. He is currently active in the Calderdale Party.

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48 Comments

  • Patrick Coleman 18th Jan '22 - 5:04pm

    A pleasure to read, and I agree with every word in this piece by the good Doctor

  • I strongly agree with this article. I also sense a growing intolerance about freedom of speech, on both the left and the right (e.g. their reactions to any criticism of Winston Churchill).

    That is why I have been a paid up member of the Free Speech Union since it launched. I can disagree with Toby Young about many issues, while agreeing with him that freedom of speech is of vital importance if society is to be free.

    There are few things more foolish than believing that a person has to agree with you about all issues, before you can collaborate with them on any issue.

  • What a refreshing piece, thank you! I think social media & blogs have a part to play in this as it seems we often get more polarised in short written snippets than we ever would be using the spoken word. No doubt Covid/lockdowns have exacerbated this tendency.

    I know I suffer from this as much as anyone, so I will endeavour to have Michael’s wise words in mind before rushing to post 🙂

  • James Belchamber 18th Jan '22 - 5:42pm

    It isn’t a good set of speeches to be had in fancy halls or auditoriums, to take note and then to vote, and then go off for tea and crumpets. A trans person cannot escape the “debate” about their existence, a gay Christian cannot escape the “debate” about their sinfulness, no young woman can escape the “debate” about whether they should be forced to give birth – and while they may never escape it in wider society, there must be no question as to whether it is the ignorant or the oppressed that should have to bite their tongue within a Liberal party.

    These aren’t debates, these are people’s lives. You may “debate” politics, but some people ARE politics – and expecting us to act with the manners of the “civilised” before everyone is afforded a civilised existence stinks of.. well, it’s conservatism, isn’t it. At least, it’s a privileged position to hold.

    Nobody should be expected to respect the opinions of those that want to oppress others, and nobody should respect those that call for it. We should demand that members of a Liberal party are Liberals – and Liberals will forgive those exhausted voices for not always being polite about it.

  • As member who joined the Liberal Party in 1979 the values that Michael Taylor speaks of were self-evident then. We need renew these values now more than ever in a society that increasingly seems to have rejected the practice of civil discourse and art of listening to those they don’t disagree with. The Tories, SNP, Reform and Labour as ever are content push people into tribalism to progress their political fortunes; ignoring the collateral damage of dividing communities and even families . We by our very nature should be seen as the party who build bridges – as our sister party The Alliance Party does in Northern Ireland .

  • Brad Barrows 18th Jan '22 - 6:25pm

    A well written and timely article.

  • Excellent article, at times I feel that the anti-censorship, pro free speech liberal left has effectively disappeared from politics altogether. If Mary Whitehouse was around today she may well find more allies on the left than the right!

    The modern liberal left seems to want to cancel, criminalise and discipline those they disagree with whilst excusing the law breaking of those they agree with. That does not work in a democratic society.

  • Andrew Melmoth 18th Jan '22 - 7:35pm

    @Mohammed Amin
    Toby Young is a conman. The Free Speech Union is not a defender of free speech. It as a vehicle for right wing culture war that promotes reactionary views while vilifying the left. It is contributing to the situation where people in public life with mildly progressive views can expect ‘anti-woke’ hate campaigns and death threats.

  • Well said Michael. Tolerance is one of the key principles of our party, and that means tolerance of other peoples viewpoints, as well as lifestyles. I don’t want to be in a monolithic party where only the one ‘true faith’ counts.
    If someone is at odds with party policy on a whole range of issues, then I think it is fair to ask them (respectfully) to consider whether they’re in the right party. But if it’s just one or two issues? Let’s talk about it, perhaps make it into a conference debate – and *tolerate* their right to be an individual and stand for what they believe in. That’s in fact what this party is all about.

  • John Barrett 18th Jan '22 - 8:26pm

    Well said, especially when you say “I would argue that many newer members of our party have no historical context in which to place today’s policy issues and have little appreciation of the way a tolerant Liberal Party can or should operate.”

    There are now more and more issues discussed on Lib-Dem Voice where people show little or no tolerance for those who hold a contrary views on the topic under discussion. Especially if those views disagree with current party policy or the thinking of a vocal or active minority. Whether it is Brexit, Abortion, Transgender issues, Scottish Independence, Nuclear weapons, Immigration or many other issues, often the stance taken by some during the discussion is that if you hold a certain view then you cannot be a Liberal, or that the view put forward is illiberal.

    It will strengthen the party if it can argue strongly why it supports certain policies and beliefs, rather than disengaging from or simply attacking those who disagree.

    I think that there are Liberals who hold contradictory views on every single one of the topics I mentioned. Those who think a particular view on one particular policy is the deciding issue as to whether someone can be a Liberal has as the article puts it ” little appreciation of the way a tolerant Liberal Party can or should operate.”

  • Back in the 1970s (I was there) it was very easy to have what might have appeared a civilised debate on these matters, because minority voices were largely silenced. If they did venture to speak up, they were only listened to if they ‘knew their place’ and conformed to the debating-club rules laid down by a society that excluded them. No wonder they are angry, now that they have found their voice.

    Liberals, of all people, should not respond by demanding conformity to tradition. It is incumbent on us to listen and to forge a new form of debate that respects the lived experiences of the oppressed and the ignored, and recognizes the harm that careless ‘free speech’ can cause.

  • Chris Moore 18th Jan '22 - 8:43pm

    Excellent article and I entirely agree with John’s restatement.

    Those of us who believe in tolerance need to speak up; it was once a core value in this party.

  • I partially agree with the article, particularly with regard to how we debate issues and respectfully disagree with each other.

    However I expect a liberal party to have a certain baseline of values which it’s members are expected to support, particularly the ones where our Liberal predecessors already fought and won the battles for us e.g. abortion and equality of gay relationships.

    Is there a place in our Party for someone who agrees with most of our policies but is in favour of FGM? Or believes women or other races are inherently inferior? I hope not, and wouldn’t want to be in the same party as them just because they also support EU membership and the legalisation of cannabis.

    Of course we need to be able to calmly and rationally debate issues to develop and grow as a party, and be polite and respectful when we do so. But it can’t be a free for all where anyone in the party seeks to drag us backwards and unwind progress already made.

  • Brad Barrows 18th Jan '22 - 10:18pm

    @Nick Baird
    I suppose it is particularly relevant to this discussion that the two examples you give of what you regard as core values – abortion and equality of gay relationships – are the two issues that may cause difficulties to some of the committed Christians within the Party. Are we really saying that someone who opposes the death sentence for murderers, but also opposes what they regard as death sentences being administered to unborn babies for being unwanted or disabled, has no place in the Liberal Democrats? I trust not.

  • James Belchamber 18th Jan '22 - 10:47pm

    “Are we really saying that someone who opposes the death sentence for murderers, but also opposes what they regard as death sentences being administered to unborn babies for being unwanted or disabled, has no place in the Liberal Democrats? I trust not.”

    I would say that, Brad. If you don’t want an abortion, don’t have one – but don’t restrict other people’s bodily autonomy to terminate their pregnancies either. Nobody has the right to force someone else to be an unwilling incubator, regardless of when you consider a life to have started – even if that belief is grounded in religion.

    This really is Liberalism 101.

  • At 35 I rather object to having a finger wagged at me because I want to know where candidates and MP’s stand on the issues I care about.

    I thought we were supposed to stand against ignorance not in favour of of stopping members from making informed choices about who we campaign for, donate to and support.

    My time is limited and I’d rather spend it trying to get PPC’s I know are on the same side of the fence as me on the issues I care about elected. That might be social issues such as abortion or economic issues such as UBI. That’s my choice and all our right.

    Being a Lib Dem does not require me to tolerate the views of others where I profoundly disagree with them and it definitely does not require me either to sit down and shut up or to support them blindly in an election.

  • Jennie (she/her) 19th Jan '22 - 6:36am

    I do find it interesting that there are so many in our party who think that asking someone if they adhere to basic Liberal principles like “everybody should have the same human rights as everybody else” is a terrible thing that harms our cause, but if someone doesn’t adhere to those principles it doesn’t harm our cause at all.

    I am irresistibly reminded of the story of the emperor’s new clothes. Clearly it was the person pointing out the emperor was naked who was the problem…

  • Chris Moore 19th Jan '22 - 6:36am

    Charley, No one who isn’t liberal-minded will want to be part of our party.

    But there are legitimate internal disagreements on many issues: nuclear deterrence, Europe, electoral strategy, the legacy of Coalition etc

    Most topically, some Christian liberals have views that differ from mine and the majority of members on issues touching on sexuality. It is a matter of tolerance and understanding of where they are coming from. But also not exaggerating! Apart from anything else, they neither want nor are in a position to roll back hard-won social advances.

  • Andrew Tampion 19th Jan '22 - 7:09am

    I agree with this article. But for me there can be no freedom of speech without the right to cause offence.
    Brad Barrow is right with his example of abortion. If a person believes that a foetus is a human being then from their point of view it is not a question of the rights of women to control their bodies but the need to balance the rights of women with the rights of the foetus.

  • I have to say I agree with James B, Phil, Jennie and Charley here.

    Having heard how wonderful it was in the old Liberal Party back in the day from Michael, John, and John, I would like to hear from some members from back then who weren’t middle-class cisgendered straight white men – I’m sure they will agree with the rosy picture that Michael paints. Or is Phil Wainewright’s comment closer to the mark?

  • A fundamental part of liberalism is that disagreements are handled by discussion and persuasion.
    If someone voices an opinion that is distasteful, they should be persuaded to think again, but also their reasons should be listened to. Eventually there may come a point where that person is obliged to leave the group, but that should be the last resort, not the first.
    There is no requirement to be tolerant of intolerant views, but there is a requirement to be tolerant of people, to the greatest extent possible.

  • lynne featherstone 19th Jan '22 - 9:46am

    We don’t believe racist views should be acceptable for debate at conference! Gender identity is a protected characteristic under the equality act just as is race and sex. Moreover, the Equality Act enables discrimination where there is a legitimate means to a proportionate aim – ie if there is a good reason for making something single sex it is permitted under law.

  • Jennie (she/her) 19th Jan '22 - 9:55am

    I agree entirely with you Dan, which is why it is so disheartening to see so many people being accused of wanting a person to leave the group when all they are doing is asking him to explain what his opinions are and if they have changed from his previous very publicly stated ones.

    If it makes a person uncomfortable to be asked what their opinions are that’s not really a free speech or tolerance problem on the part of the person asking the questions.

  • Rif Winfield 19th Jan '22 - 10:07am

    Well said, Mick! I endorse every word. But many who were active members of the Liberal Party (including YLs of that period) cannot see in the present Liberal Democrats as a party (no criticism of many like-minded friends as individual members) the same attitudes pervading its thinking processes. I totally accept that most of those elected as Liberal Democrats are infinitely better than having a Conservative or Labour representative in their place. I wish them luck, and will almost always give them my support, but cannot accept that the Party I campaigned for at every level in the 60s and 70s is the same as today’s LibDems.

  • It’s important that members of the party and our representatives share certain values and goals, but it’s reasonable that we won’t all interpret them the same way, or have the same opinions on how best to achieve our goals. A parallel may be to consider the difference between strategy and tactics.

    Climate Change is a good example. The overwhelming consensus is that climate change is real and that it’s man-made and that we need to do something – lots of things, about it ASAP. Anyone who is still questioning climate change, or that doesn’t see protecting the environment is a political priority is in the wrong party. However, how best to slow climate change and to protect the environment is far from settled. Well managed disagreement is what drives progress in science and technology, and IMO, politics.

    We need to accept that a difference of opinion isn’t a slight. Many vegetarians believe meat is murder, while many Jews won’t eat bacon and Muslims won’t drink alcohol. If you like the odd pint or a bacon roll – can you still be friends with those who don’t do so on ethical grounds? Can they be friends with you?

    That said, don’t leave bacon on your Jewish colleague’s desk etc.

  • Let’s take just one issue: abortion.

    I know around ten liberal-minded Christians. (One is a party member.) All put far more weight on the rights of the unborn/foetus than I do.

    But all also put determining weight on the potential mother’s rights. None would want to oblige a woman to have a baby against her wishes. (One has herself had an abortion.)

    Nor do any of them want to roll back abortion services, illegalize abortion etc.

    I think it would be really helpful – and promote tolerance – if there was more awareness of what such Christians actually believe and what motivates them.

    They are not the benighted inhuman reactionaries that some of you imagine.

    How about a party event to link up LD believers and non-believers to find common ground and to appreciate differences?

  • To Mick Taylor and everyone else who “agree 100%” – there is a difference between disagreeing on POLICY and disagreeing on VALUES.

    Our Constitution says:-
    “..we reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, ethnicity, caste, heritage, class, religion or belief, age, disability, sex, gender or sexual orientation”

    If you are going to discriminate against someone because of any of the above you are going against our Constitution not just a policy. (I’m not sure why, but I feel the need to point out that ‘gender’ includes chosen gender.)

    There is also a difference between what people THINK (e.g. because of their religious beliefs) and how they act (and VOTE if elected). I think Tim Farron gets this, he was just awful at explaining it. I’m not sure that others do.

  • Mary Regnier-Wilson 19th Jan '22 - 11:11am

    I agree totally that we should disagree nicely. For example, I would never dream of using insults like “plastic liberal”

    Taking the “we must be allowed to disagree” argument to its logical conclusion would mean we should be welcoming members who believe boris Johnson is a good prime minister.

    As someone said here recently – even broad churches have walls. Our walls are our fundamental values. Which include these:
    “We look forward to a world in which all people share the same basic rights, in which they live together in peace and in which their different cultures will be able to develop freely. Upholding these values of individual and social justice, we reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, ethnicity, caste, heritage, class, religion or belief, age, disability, sex, gender or sexual orientation’ and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality”

    I don’t expect everyone in our party to agree with me. I do expect every member too agree with the word above. Unfortunately I’ve come to expect patronising attitudes from people with white male privilege towards those from more diverse backgrounds who challenge them even within our party.

  • Nonconformistradical 19th Jan '22 - 11:31am

    @Chris Moore
    “I think it would be really helpful – and promote tolerance – if there was more awareness of what such Christians actually believe and what motivates them.”

    Maybe. But might it also be helpful for Christians to be more aware of why some people – some of whom might even have been brought up in a Christian culture – reject Christianity – and maybe reject any form of organised religion?

  • John Barrett 19th Jan '22 - 11:39am

    I agree with Andrew Tampion, who says there can be no freedom of speech without the right to cause offence.

    Disagreeing with someone or stating a point of view on any subject might cause them offence, but in most cases it does no harm and, to a large degree, being offended is rightly part of everyday life. Those who try to avoid offending anyone will have to stay silent and say nothing at all.

    As someone who does not believe in God, I find many strongly held religious views offensive, but I just have to tolerate most of them and get on with it. There is a difference between tolerating the views of others and respecting those views.

    I will listen to and read views I will never respect. When an invitation to speak on a subject is withdrawn simply because a particular viewpoint does not fit in with everyone else’s belief and some object to hearing the speaker, we are all losers.

    If we don’t hear what others believe, we will not know what to oppose. We need to hear many views we find abhorrent to know why a Liberal Party is needed now more than ever.

  • @Nonconformistradical:

    You are right!

  • The world has changed over the years.
    I joined the party in 1959. The first meeting I attended was probably 1960. There were a few people arguing that the Irish should be sent back to Ireland. Whether they were members or not I do not know. At the time members paid locally for 2/6 per year – half a crown or 12.5p. There was no way of maintaining central records. The only computers were in air conditioned rooms and the internet was only a science fiction theme.
    We now live in a different world.
    I read a lot of things on the internet. I know a lot of things are in fact from various pressure groups or foreign governments.
    We need to look urgently how to use the internet in such a way as we know who really wrote things and who we are really talking to.

  • There’s a difference between the right to cause “offence” and the right to cause “harm”. If I say (to be clear, I wouldn’t) “Lib Dems are traitors and the party should be banned” … well, it might well cause offence, maybe even bar me from being a PPC for you … but the potential harm to you is very limited as I don’t have the political power to do it nor the influence to get other people to.

    If “John Authoritarian MP” makes the same statement in the House of Commons while voting for the “Banning of Opposition Parties as Traitors Bill” alongside a majority of his fellows, then whether or not that causes “offence” is irrelevant – it causes very substantial harm.

    An extreme example. The point is someone standing for office presumably has intent and certainly capability to implement their opinions. So fine, homophobes exist, they have a right to think that, in most circumstances a right to say that. But I’ll absolutely not vote for one for Parliament no matter how sound they are on HS2, Europe, STV, etc.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Jan '22 - 1:01pm

    Andrew

    You put it well here and, on previous threads about these things.

    Can you agree with me on this point, many laws do require adaptation and flexible approaches. For example, we could have, as we can save premature born, earlier now, abortion up to only say, eighteen or twenty weeks soon. The point of viability thus altrered. Many countries , Ireland now one, only allow it to twelve weeks, arbitary in my opinion. But I would favour eighteen or twenty in future. Is that taking rights away or giving them to a foetus that could be a new born infant?

    Similarly, I have advocated to many who want the churches to be forced to offer legal same sex marriage, better to remove the legalities of marriage from every church, allow all partners of any gender, to marry in a registry office, but then any church can do what they like with their ceremonial approaches, as they would only be doing so religiously, not legally.

    My approach is to be mindful of extending rights but in more imaginative or flexible ways, adapting to change.

  • Mick Taylor 19th Jan '22 - 1:58pm

    Thanks to all those who have contributed to this debate. I will make just one brief reply.
    Nick Baird FGM could never be tolerated in our party, This clearly violates the harm principle.
    The problems come from areas where legitimate differences of opinion can all represent Liberalism, where policy proscriptions differ. For example supporting one time limit for abortion as against another. Liberals should support trans people but there is room for debate about the timing and rules of such a change.
    There is no right not to be offended. I am offended every day by this government and sometimes by people in my own party. That is the nature of political discourse.
    A number of people have suggested that in the Liberal Party minority views were suppressed. People who say that clearly know little about Liberals. Not only were minority views heard, they were encouraged and then debated with vigour. Unlike today these differences were often debated fiercely on the conference floor, but people mostly accepted the subsequent vote.
    To Charlie, Cim and others I would simply say this. If you have a policy prescription that you absolutely must have the agreement of your chosen candidate for, then it’s your right as a Liberal to seek that. What is not your right is to seek to force your view on everyone else. Oh, and by the way, Cim, homophobes are not welcome in our party.
    Let’s go forward in harmonious agreement and let debate flourish. Politics would be very dull otherwise.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Jan '22 - 10:09pm

    Andrew

    Appreciate your response. I understand. My view though is your opinion and mine, or Mick’s, is as valid as any other. Young middle aged, middle aged, older, white, black, man , woman, gay, straight trans, unemployed, rich, all aspects only, of an iondividual.Everyone has something to add, in our party. Everyone has their own experience, and if they seek to do no hasrm, then in a party like ours, even the worst views are not going to do any real harm. It is a party without perfection, but with reflection. You prove it here. Others , even with greater and investment in a debate, can learn from the constructive debates had on here. There is extremism out there, the worst liberals are only extremely argumentative, never extremely dangerous!

  • Bit of a straw man there Mick given at no point was anyone seeking to force their views on anyone else. Asking someone what their views are is not the same as insisting they must be the same as mine.

    I wrote a piece for LDV a couple of days ago on the catch up agenda in education at the moment- while I’m against it I’m not insisting those in favour are booted from the party. At the same time I’m likely to be less inclined to campaign for someone who is hard-core in favour of piling academic pressure on kids right now. But unless they outright say what they think I can’t make that informed choice so why wouldn’t I ask? Certainly having been a PPC twice I can testify to how full my inbox has ended up with questions from potential constituents on my views on various issues and they have just as much right to do that as I do. They don’t have the right to send me abuse and I absolutely do not have the right to insult them if our opinions differ.

  • James Brough 20th Jan '22 - 9:29am

    I’m used to the idea that accusations of such behaviour as homophobia, racism and sexism are seen by some as worse than the behaviour itself. This seems to be a new development – that respectful questioning of a person who’s previously avowed such beliefs is seen as offensive.

    As has been said, the rights of minorities are not merely a discussion point for members of those minorities. We currently have a government that threatens to repeal the Human Rights Act. This has potentially catastrophic effects for me – a queer man with severe mental health problems – and for many of my friends. I would like there to be a political party that would stand by us and for a while, I thought that might be the Lib Dems.

    Before you tell me that I’m overreacting, that it’s just healthy debate, that I’m stifling discussion, I’d ask you to consider something. Vulnerable people – for instance queer people, people of colour, people with mental health problems, women – are good at spotting threats. Give us credit for our lived experience and listen to our concerns.

  • Jennie (she/her) 20th Jan '22 - 9:41am

    “Let’s go forward in harmonious agreement and let debate flourish.”

    If debate is flourishing that seems unlikely to produce harmonious agreement, and if there’s harmonious agreement it feels unlikely debate is flourishing?

    But maybe I’m nitpicking

  • @Mick Taylor – “FGM could never be tolerated in our party, This clearly violates the harm principle”.

    That statement implies that you accept there are boundaries to what are valid subjects for debate within a liberal party.

    The Harm Principle is important. For example, the LGBT+ community suffer discrimination and violence in this country and elsewhere. If you hold, and express the view that gay sex is a sin or otherwise wrong in some non-religious way, then you validate homophobes and that harms the gay community. We oppose racism and misogyny for similar reasons, and because they are fundamental issues of equality. You can’t limit where you choose to apply the harm principle to justify what can and can’t be debated.

  • “Homophobes are not welcome in [the Lib Dems]” and “it is not [Lib Dems] right to seek to force their view on [other Lib Dems]”? seem to me to be contradictory statements.

    From the original post, disagreement on issues should not lead to expulsion from the party, or to public criticism of party officials and candidates. One of the examples given of acceptable disagreement in the 60s was that a minority of Liberals believed that consenting homosexual sex should remain criminalised – which I think would be pretty straightforwardly understood as homophobic.

    So … what’s changed? Would it be unacceptable for a Lib Dem today to believe that consenting homosexual sex should be recriminalised? Would it be appropriate to say so in public were that Lib Dem a candidate for political office? If the answer to either of those questions is “no”, in what way are homophobes not welcome in the Lib Dems?

  • We should not be surprised that people who are the subjects of a debate want to be part of it – it’s also not unsurprising that they won’t want to debate, particularly not endlessly and at length, with people not in their minority group:
    1) their worth as human beings,
    2) their continuing to enjoy rights that they currently do, and
    3) any reduction of those rights (such as, say, their ability to use toilets, except in private homes)
    It would be neither “Liberal” nor moral to insist that people sit by smiling sweetly while others debate, in public, whether they should have, or keep having, rights that those actually having the debate already enjoy. That wouldn’t be “allowing debate” – that would be bullying. Wanting people to stop doing this isn’t “stifling free speech”, or “protecting people from feeling offended” – it’s protecting people (and, in many cases, entire embattled minority groups, because for some reason the only thing people complaining about free speech these days want to talk about is how icky LGBT+ people are) from psychological abuse by people who are either too pig-ignorant to see that that’s the effect they’re having and are getting defensive, or by people who actually want to do that all along, and don’t like being called out for it.

  • Ronald M Murray 23rd Jan '22 - 9:37am

    Free speech is now generally on the run in this country. You cannot criticize the most despotic regimes in the world without being accused of hating the majority religion or race in that country.

  • “No one who isn’t liberal-minded will want to be part of our party.”

    This is wrong. Deeply and profoundly wrong. Lots of people join the Lib Dems because they hate their terrible local Labour or Tory council and joining the Lib Dems and becoming a councillor is the most effective way to do something about it.

    Some of those people are liberal minded and become Liberals over time. Others don’t. They just think that they agree with their voters and that makes them a liberal.

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    The British government have indicated a possible workaround if Erdogan refuses to change his mind. It has signed a separate “mutual assistance” treaty wi...
  • Lorenzo Cherin
    David I think I gave it more as an example of where it happens, to relate it to the question Martin put. I am not saying the woman ought to be prosecuted or ...