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13 February 2009

Lords taking liberties?

The best of the politics blogs brought to you by Paul Evans. This week read about the Geert Wilders

By Paul Evans

Liberty and Lords

Thursday 12th was an unlucky day for Dutch politician Geert Wilders, whose absurd hairdo and appalling film-making skills were sent packing at Heathrow.

While few had any time for ‘Fitna,’ the crude and offensive film that Wilders was hoping to screen in the House of Lords, as a liberty-loving bunch, bloggers were almost universally dismayed by the decision to ban him from entering the UK. The role of Lord Ahmed (a man who merrily hosted the European racist Jöran Jermas) in persuading the Home Office to refused him entry came under particular scrutiny.

On Pickled Politics, Sid contrasted his response with that of the Quilliam Foundation, which: “believes that although many of Wilders’ public statements are bigoted, ill-informed and offensive to people of all faiths, this is not an adequate reason to prevent him from coming to the UK”. He noted:

“Lord Ahmed’s reaction is most certainly a robust denouncement of Wilders. But it resembles too closely for comfort, the ugly gesture of a rabble-rousing feudal oligarch, threatening mob violence against the House of Lords.”

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And for Cranmer this was a serious matter indeed. “Lord Ahmed,” he contested, “must be prosescuted for treason”. He sets out the case that Ahmed’s indication that he may he rouse a large group of Muslim protestors to prevent the screening of ‘Fitna’ amounted to the gravest crime in the land:

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“There appears to be prima facie evidence of an attempt ‘to intimidate or overawe both Houses or either House of Parliament’ by an ‘overt act or deed’,” he explained.

The Wardman Wire‘s Carl Gardner also had law on his mind – arguing that the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006 have been incorrectly applied, since they refer to the conduct and not the presence of an individual. And on his own blog, Head of Legal, Gardner noted: “I’ve not heard any comment about this either from Liberty, or from David Davis. Why not? It’s a major free speech issue.”

Of the blogs more sympathetic to the government position (and there are precious few), even The Osterley Times could not endorse Wilders’ ban, though it accepted that: “…the government were probably concerned about the level of anger he might generate as he did so. So one can find many arguments for and against him being allowed entry”.

The film was screened, despite Wilders’ absence.

What have we learned this week?

Much glee from Guido and Dizzy, at David Hencke’s revelation that Derek Draper phrased details of his Berkeley education with what appeared to be calculated ambiguity. Draper has now set up his own personal blog to deal exclusively with the endless pisstaking. I wonder whether he was at Wellington with Lord Archer?

Around the World

Lester Ho is a Malaysian student studying in Japan. This week his blog carries photos of a protest in Shinjuku against the economic policies of prime minister Taro Aso. “Back in my country, Protesting is illegal and you need a special permit (which you hardly can obtain one from the government or police),” he writes.

Video of the Week

On Playpolitical you can watch Sky News’ head to head between Lords Pearson and Ahmed.

Quote of the Week

“Without open debate, falsehood and bigotry can fester in dark nether-regions, safe from the severe scrutiny of mainstream society. Once subjected to free debate, most of the most odious ideas will wither and die.”

Stephen Farrington.