Chris Hammond masterminded a recent hybrid meeting involving Dominic Grieve as the main speaker. He has written this blog in frustration, because a prominent local organisation with over 8,000 followers refused to publicise the event. Separately, a school declined to pass on the notice on the grounds that it is ‘political’...
Politics is about the community and the way in which our local community is organised, through to regional, national and the international. To be aware of such basic matters as to how we as a group of people organise our ‘political’ life, is surely the sign of a mature democracy? But, as we have seen in recent times, it seems that Britain is far from a ‘mature’ democracy, in which a healthy, balanced debate can take place.
Later, the organisation in question which objected to inclusion of Chris’ advertisement decided to accept it, but sanitised of all content which might be deemed to be political!
So where can political events be posted, for the population at large to benefit from listening to all views within the range of political debate?
Surely it is up to the attendees to make up their minds, and not have it made up for them in advance by being denied access to the information and arguments?
Dominic Grieve was a very prominent MP from 1997 till 2019, he was the Attorney General from 2010–14 of the then Government, and Chair of the Security and Intelligence committee in Parliament from 2015–19. He is a King’s Counsel, KC. Why was he to be denied a forum to express his views?
We also had in attendance at the event Gavin Esler, the former BBC2 Newsnight Presenter, and Baroness Patience Wheatcroft, Cross Bencher in the House of Lords at present. Why was the population denied access to politicians of such standing?
We also had some school pupils with their teacher from a local school attending. So some pupils were attending, but many adults were denied the opportunity!
Other lands, other customs
As an example, a curriculum from one EU country begins at a very young age of teaching and experiencing about living together with our fellow citizens and within our community. This develops right through to the A Level age equivalent, in dealing with the more complex issues that can arise within a people and its communities. I believe that is a mature approach to the issue of politics.
By comparison in the UK, the citizenship curriculum at Key Stages 3 and 4 is compulsory in maintained schools (that is, those still under local authority control) but not in academy schools. 80% of secondary school students now are in academies, so they do not have to do the citizenship curriculum. The PSHE (personal, social, health and economic education) curriculum which operates in almost all schools, although it touches on the law (especially with regard to drugs) does not really educate teenagers in how to participate in democratic processes.
I agree, that there is a difference between meetings that are organised by registered political parties and those which are organised by other bodies which may be about social or political affairs. Because of the local elections scheduled for May, we are about to enter the pre-election period when there are strict financial controls on publicity by registered political parties.
But in Britain, it seems to be a virtual taboo to ‘talk about politics’. The consequence is that the population remain ignorant of many aspects of how a country should be organised, which in turn can lend itself to exploitation by extremist tendencies. It means fake news can proliferate; people are ignorant of the true structures of a democracy and politicians can hoodwink an unknowing electorate.
Chair, East Kent for Europe
* The European Movement and its affiliates have always been ‘all-party’, as stated in its founding constitution of 1948.
** This article is adapted from an original which appeared in Kent Bylines on 23 March 2023
London4Europe blogs are edited by Nick Hopkinson, Vice-Chair. Articles on this page reflect the views of the author and not necessarily of London4Europe.