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Thread: CRE chair's speech at the launch of United Against Fascism

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    Post CRE chair's speech at the launch of United Against Fascism

    Tuesday 3 February 2004

    CRE chair's speech at the launch of United Against Fascism

    Trevor Phillips gave the following speech today at a press conference to mark the launch of United Against Fascism, a campaign coalition against racism and fascism in the UK.

    Thank you for this opportunity to speak

    Long overdue occasion, to bring all anti-racist forces together

    Simple objective: defeat the BNP wherever we find it.

    Every small victory makes it easier for them to win a second time. Only eighteen victories, but in spite of their criminality, in spite of their idleness, in spite of their racism voters are still casting ballots for them.

    Their message is increasingly a voter-friendly one - they are targeting all-white areas with fearsome stories of what's happening down the road, and they are smarter and better than they ever have been.

    But they are still racists, they are still violent and they are still a danger to democracy.

    There is a genuine possibility that they can win a European Parliamentary seat. There is a genuine danger that they can win a London Assembly seat - 85,000 votes is all it will take. That is six thousand votes in each GLA constituency.

    Learn from Europe:

    • Hysteria about asylum seekers and the Muslim threat

    • Failures of government and mistrust of legitimate political parties

    • Apathy on the right, and division on the left

    We have all the ingredients.

    Across Europe, they are falling - Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, Holland, and now France.

    France demonstrates the real danger. The French government will today push a law through Parliament banning religious symbols - a curb on the freedom of every French citizen.

    The reason is supposed to be the French tradition of secularity. It isn't. It is the fear of the far Right and its established electoral power.

    But let's understand what is happening here: what starts as an attack on Muslims, becomes a restraint on Jews, and a prohibition for Catholics and other Christians - to the absurd length of banning religious beards in schools - amongst children? The Right has tied French politics in knots, ready to do anything it says.

    This is the real danger of the success of the Far Right. It is not what they do themselves, though that is serious enough. It is what they make others do.

    Here it is right, for example, that we guard against terrorism; but we do not defeat terrorists by driving ordinary, law-abiding British Muslims into the arms of extremists with overheated rhetoric, threats of restrictions and random raids.

    This is a time for democrats to be democrats, and not shadows of the racists.

    It's not the CRE's role to engage in the party politics, but we regard the danger from the extremists of the right as clear and present.

    We have already detached a small group of our senior staff to work with other organisations - the Board of Deputies, Searchlight, the MCB on the issue of the far right.

    We intend to be a reliable source of intelligence about their actions; to be a prompt to the political parties to act against the far right; and to make it as hard as possible for the BNP to peddle their racism as legitimate political expression.

    Finally, let me be clear: we will use the law against racist parties when and where we can.

    At the heart of this is, first, our view that no-one should be forced to work with a racist any more than they should be forced to sit next to a child molester; and second our contention that you cannot be a public servant, sign up to public service values, and at the same time subscribe to a political party which believes in the withdrawal of rights from people on the grounds of their race and ethnicity.

    We worked with the TUC to secure legislation now going through Parliament to allow unions to remove membership from anyone who signs up to the BNP and similar parties. We will support unions who enforce this policy based on their own rules whilst that legislation goes through Parliament.

    We have instructed Counsel to advise us on the responsibilities of public authorities under the Race Relations Amendment Act. The heart of this is simple: can we prevent public facilities - schools, council buildings, and so forth - being used to peddle racism? If we can, we will.

    We will monitor election material. And make no mistake, we will refer racist material which we regard as inciting to racial hatred. I want to make clear that I take this very seriously. I announced last week that we will be drawing up a specific code for our use of the incitement provision, but that is because I expect to use it. We expect to do this rarely, because we won't do it for publicity purposes. We will do it because we think someone should be locked up.

    Finally let me say a word about the issue of freedom of speech.

    My aim is not to interfere with what people think. I want to change what they do.

    Part of what you do is what you say, of course. Words do hurt me. And all too often right behind the words come the sticks and the stones. There has been a lot of debate recently about free speech. Let me just say three things about freedom of expression.

    First, if there were no limitations on free speech we would still have streets plastered, as they were when I was a child, with the slogans "Wogs Go Home" and "Keep Britain White".

    Second, when the first person to be convicted for incitement to racial hatred was jailed for 18 months there was satisfaction all round. He was of course, a black man, Roy Sawh, whose crime, as I understand it, was regularly to stand at Speaker's Corner, sparring with passers-by. One of his regular jokes went something like this:

    "My mother and father told me back in Guyana that England is going down the toilet. Well, I came here to pull the chain".

    Not so funny, mildly offensive, but not worth 18 months in jail.

    Third, this is the screen behind which fascists always hide. They want freedom of speech principally in order to deny it to others.

    They fooled everyone eighty years ago, and the world paid a price in blood. This time we won't be fooled, and we should never pay that price again. That's why we are here with you, and we will support the aims of UAF with all the powers at our disposal.

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    Post Re: CRE chair's speech at the launch of United Against Fascism

    Quote Originally Posted by Loki
    Bump. 3 views... does anyone ever read the stuff I post?
    I don't read long posts. Guess not many people do. Nothing personal.

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