All sorts of people could be deemed ‘extremist’ under the Government’s extremism crackdown, the former Business Secretary Vince Cable has warned.
In a speech at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies earlier this week, Cable said the Government’s new definition of extremism could “apply to people with a whole manner of views”.
Cable used the example of universities, which he said will want to appear even-handed by banning non-Muslim speakers who are controversial or ‘extreme’.
He said universities will pursue “bland, uncontroversial debates, driving underground contentious debate that causes difficulty”.
“Instead of intellectual challenge there will be a bland exchange of views which are inoffensive and politically correct”, Cable added.
His comments echo those of former head of MI5 Lord Evans of Weardale, who raised concerns about the Government’s upcoming counter-extremism legislation, which includes Extremism Disruption Orders (EDOs).
Defend Free Speech
Instead of intellectual challenge there will be a bland exchange of views which are inoffensive and politically correctVince Cable
In July, Lord Evans warned that “harmless evangelical street preachers” could be subjected to crackdowns under the new measures, cautioning that “definitions will be crucial”.
He said: “In a secular, liberal democracy like ours, waging this sort of war of ideas is extremely difficult and I have yet to come across a programme, here or abroad, that is wholly convincing. More work is needed.”
On Monday Britain’s ‘most unlikely’ campaign group, Defend Free Speech, was launched at Parliament to oppose EDOs.
MP David Davis, who hosted the event, told those gathered that if the plans come into force it will be the “first corrosion of the greatness of our country”, and that free speech is our “weapon not our enemy”.
The Christian Institute, the National Secular Society, the Peter Tatchell Foundation and other concerned groups attended the launch.
The campaign is also backed by former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis MP, Caroline Lucas MP and former Chief Constable Lord Dear.
The Defend Free Speech campaign website defendfreespeech.org.uk gives up-to-date information about the campaign, and helps people to contact their MP about the proposals.