The Free Speech Union has written to Matthew Rycroft, the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, to complain about a directive to Home Office staff to include their pronouns in their email signatures. They are concerned that this instruction, which appears to be mandatory, is a form of compelled speech that violates the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and the right to free speech (Articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights). They also argue it is a breach of the Equality Act.
Staff in the Visa, Status and Information Services department have been instructed to format their email signatures to include their pronouns on their email signatures:
[Name of unit] | Visa, Status and Information Services
Customer Services Group | UK Visas and Immigration
Address/office location [on one line – e.g. Level 3, Foundry House, Sheffield]
T: +44 (0)XX XXXX XXXX
M: +44 (0)XX XXXX XXXX
OUR VSI Our People Our Operations Our Customers
This is they have been told because of “the wider cultural changes” taking shape in the department. The Free Speech Union is asking the Home Office’s Permanent Secretary to ensure that no employee is penalised for refusing to include their pronouns in their email signatures and to make it clear to civil servants that stating pronouns on email signatures is not, and must not become, mandatory. They are hopeful of success because Matthew Rycroft has not included his pronouns on his official uk.gov biography…
Yesterday it emerged the government’s dropped plans to limit MPs’ earnings from second jobs following the Geoffrey Cox row last year. Beyond their opposition to this proposed reform, Guido spots the government has also stuck two fingers up at another proposal from Chris Bryant – to add “respect” to the parliamentary behaviour code, to “demonstrate anti-discriminatory attitudes and behaviours through the promotion of anti-racism, inclusion and diversity”. All very wet…
Looking through the government’s response, Guido notes Stephen Barclay and Mark Spencer have strongly rejected the proposal on the grounds of free speech:
“we think it is of overarching importance to emphasise tolerance of different viewpoints and protect free debate when considering any changes.
We would not want to stifle legitimate debate on politically contentious issues which are important to our democracy – as an indirect consequence of the proposed new requirement for ‘anti-discriminatory attitudes’ or demonstrating ‘inclusion and diversity’. This could have a chilling effect on free speech on contentious and polarised political issues. This has recently been illustrated in the Lords, in the controversy over the role of the Lords Standards Commissioner in relation to a complaint made against four peers for comments they made in a debate. Even if a Members’ views or opinions are not in scope of the standards process, such a provision risks generating partisan complaints that could ultimately discourage Members’ free speech on highly contentious matters of public policy.”
This point is something supported by the Free Speech Union, who submitted evidence as part of the consultation arguing against adding the ‘respect’ principle, which would “attempt to regulate the ‘attitudes’ of MPs, i.e., their views and opinions.” Presumably it would also prevent Boris from correctly calling out Starmer’s role in the CPS’s failure to prosecute Jimmy Saville…
The Court of Appeal has just ruled a landmark judgement that the recording of non-crime hate incidents is an unlawful interference with freedom of expression. The court explicitly says that such matters being recorded and stored in police databases is likely to have a serious “chilling effect” on public debate. Astonishing: some common sense…
The case was sparked by ex-police officer Harry Miller receiving complaints over allegedly “transphobic” tweets, leading to a visit by a Humberside police officer in January 2019 who recorded it as a “hate incident”. While the High Court last year ruled that the police force’s actions were a “disproportionate interference” with Miller’s right to freedom of expression, his challenge to the College of Police’s guidance was dismissed, with the court finding it “serves legitimate purposes and is not disproportionate”.
Today’s victory should be welcome to all who believe in the right to free speech both on and offline. Welcoming the judgment, Toby Young said:
“The Free Speech Union is proud to have played a part in winning this landmark victory, but the lion’s share of the credit must go to Harry Miller. Thanks to his courage and tenacity, we can all rest a little easier in our beds tonight, knowing the police are not about to knock on our doors because we’ve made an inappropriate joke on Twitter. They should be policing our streets, not our tweets.”
Merry Christmas one and all…
In response to the “no platforming” of Priyamvada Gopal by the Home Office, the Free Speech Union has invited her to join and offered to defend her.
Gopal’s invitation to speak to Home Office civil servants was withdrawn after Guido revealed the left-wing professor had been invited to speak, despite her extreme positions on race and cultural issues. We also highlighted that she had also said the Home Secretary Priti Patel:
“is also a reminder that many Asians in British Africa had ferociously anti-black attitudes and were used by colonial administrations to keep black populations in their place. An attitude she brings to government.”
The Free Speech Union this morning has welcomed Gopal’s acknowledgment that the free speech crisis is real and not “manufactured”. Going on to say if she joins the union they will be happy to consider her case:
Incidentally, Guido never advocated Gopal’s speaker invitation be withdrawn, merely that other speakers should be invited to balance and challenge her loony left-wing claims. Priti perhaps had a different view…
Student unions haven’t reacted well to the government’s forthcoming legislation that, among other things, will impose a legal duty on them to uphold free speech – and none have been more obstreperous than Exeter University’s Students’ Guild. After the Exeter Socialists Student Society complained to the Guild following the participation of Claire Fox and Joanna Williams in a debate last month, accusing them of being “transphobic”, the Guild responded by imposing a blanket ban on all events involving external speakers until it had put a new Digital Events Protocol and External Speaker Policy in place.
The Guild told the debating society that its “existing digital event protocols are inadequate and expose our student leaders to significant risk”. Significant risk of exposure to points of view they disagree with.
Yet the Guild hadn’t reckoned on those pesky kids at the Free Speech Union. The FSU wrote to the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Lisa Roberts, pointing out that Exeter might be in breach of its legal obligations to uphold free speech on campus if she didn’t tell the Guild to stop playing silly buggers. Prof Roberts initially tried to fob off the letter, but after the FSU escalated, drawing her attention to a recent missive she’d received from current Education Secretary Gavin Williamson asking her to make sure she “actively challenged” those seeking to curtail free speech at Exeter, she capitulated and told the FSU that all events would resume next week.
FSU General Secretary Toby Young tells Guido: “I’m glad the Vice-Chancellor has finally seen sense. It was as if the Guild saw how censorious other student unions were being and said, ‘Hold my beer.’ Students at Exeter are already being short-changed because of the lockdown. To add to their miseries by cancelling all online events is scandalous.”
Find out more about the Free Speech Union here.
Julie Burchill’s publisher has agreed to pay her in full and relinquished all rights to her manuscript, following an intervention by the Free Speech Union. Last week, Little, Brown announced it would not be publishing Burchill’s book, Welcome to the Woke Trials, after she got into a Twitter spat with literal communist Ash Sarkar. The hard left pundit had attacked Rod Liddle for making light of child rape, having dug up an eight-year-old Spectator article in which he said he had avoided becoming a teacher because he couldn’t trust himself not to try and have sex with his teenage pupils. Burchill told her that was a little rich coming from a Muslim, given that Mohammad’s wife Aisha was a child when he married her. “I don’t WORSHIP a paedophile,” she said. “Lecturer, lecture thyself!” Little, Brown promptly cancelled the book.
As Brendan O’Neill commented: “Julie Burchill was hired for being Julie Burchill – and then Julie Burchill was fired for being Julie Burchill.” Guido doesn’t like to criticise other people’s faiths, however it should not be an offence to be blasphemous…
Luckily for her, Burchill is a member of the Free Speech Union and reached out for help. Following an intervention by the FSU’s legal team, Little, Brown has now agreed to pay Julie’s advance in full and returned all the rights in the book to her so she can take it elsewhere. According to her agent Matthew Hamilton, several publishers have contacted him expressing an interest in the book.
Toby Young, FSU General Secretary, says: “For a publisher to cancel a book on cancel culture because a self-proclaimed communist has denounced the author is completely unacceptable. This is Great Britain, not Stalin’s Russia. I’m glad we were able to help.” Julie is unrepentant. “I’ve been upsetting bourgeoise bed-wetters since I was 17 – now I’m 61 and nothing has changed. Last time I checked, that wasn’t against the law. I am indebted to the Free Speech Union for stepping in to protect my rights.” They would have got away with if it weren’t for that pesky Free Speech Union…