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By Marcia Hutchinson


Thursday, June 18, 2009.




I recently watched a TV programme which asked if the neo-fascist British National Party (BNP) have the right to be heard?  This defined the issue as one of freedom of speech.  The answer is not that simple.  The British electorate is not that simple.  The democratic principle of freedom of speech is not that simple.  The most important thing about the right of freedom of speech is that it is not, has never been and never will be absolute.  No one has the 'right' to shout 'fire' in a crowded theatre. 


There are, and always have been limits to the right to 'free speech' one of those limits is the one is not entitled to incite racial hatred; the BNP aim to do just that.  In any economic crisis extreme parties tend to flourish.  Hitler was elected (democratically) in a depression era Germany. Lots of people who have lost heir jobs through no fault of there own are angry about it and want someone to blame.  It is easy for the BNP to portray non-whites as the culprits.  The black families down the road are much more accessible than the bankers who got us into this mess. 


To say the major political parties only have themselves to blame is something of an understatement.  I have written before that Gordon Brown's "British Jobs for British workers" rallying cry would come back to haunt him and here it is in the form of not one but two BNP MEP's. 


In an economic crisis it is easy to score a few cheap votes by demonising ethnic minorities but it's a very nasty and very fine line to tread.  Yes you might garner a few votes from disaffected whites, but how many do you give to the far right by seeming to legitimise their policies. 


All the major political parties have been guilty of playing this game.  As it turned out we had much more to fear from the bankers and the politicians who were beholden to them than we ever did from ethnic minority immigrants.


How many ethnic minorities brought down Northern Rock, how many crashed Bradford and Bingley, and Woolworths.  If you have just lost your job because your company has gone bust - ethnic minorities are hardly to blame.


The BNP discriminate on the grounds of race (non-whites are not allowed to join); they are not interested in freedom of speech per se, they want access to mainstream media, to television and newspapers which will allow them to spout race-hate to a wider audience.  It's sad to see so many media outlets clambering over each other to give it to them.


Marcia Hutchinson studied law at Oxford University before practising as a solicitor for ten years. She changed direction in 1997 establishing Primary Colours to meet a need for high quality culturally diverse educational resources. She has written for a range of publications, including the Guardian, The Yorkshire Post and the Caribbean Times. She was recently the subject of ITV's My Yorkshire. She speaks regularly at conferences and other events on education for diversity.


Marcia is available to comment on all aspects of education for diversity and issues around multiculturalism in schools. For further information please contact marketing@primraycolours.net




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