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Thursday, March 03, 2005

 

Back-pedal Alert

The latest (5th March) issue of the Spectator has an interview with Charles Kennedy (to read it online, you have to register but it's free).

Two interesting things emerge. The first is that, if there were a hung parliament, Kennedy says he would not work with the Tories.

The second is that, while Kennedy claims that "in all policies, the presumption must be the maximisation of the individual's rights of expression", it is not clear that this is what he actually believes. The Spectator comments:

This hardly sits easily with his support for outlawing 'incitement to religious hatred'. When I mention that the writer Salman Rushdie has warned that such legislation would undermine freedom of thought, Kennedy prefers to equivocate rather than make a robust defence of free speech. "I should not be able to go out into the street and incite people to religious hatred. That is wrong. But I should be able to argue openly why one aspect of one religion is perhaps preferable to another aspect of another one. We have to leave it to the courts to judge these things."
The Liberal Democrats rightly opposed the incitement to religious hatred laws in the Commons debate on 7th February. Is Kennedy's back-pedalling since that vote the result of religious bullying? Or is it due to a cynical calculation about the Muslim vote? Either way, it stinks.

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