Brown to ‘lower bar’ for race-hate law
By James Cusick, Westminster Editor (Sunday Herald)
The promise by Gordon Brown to revisit Britain’s race-hate laws is further evidence that the Cabinet and Tony Blair already regard the chancellor as Britain’s prime minister-elect.
Following the acquittal of the British National Party chairman, Nick Griffin, and the party’s publicity chief, Mark Collett, on charges of stirring up race hate, Brown has already alerted senior Cabinet colleagues and advisers to begin preparing the legal ground for a “resurrection” of measures that the government failed to push through parliament earlier this year.
One ministerial adviser said: “The bar was raised to ensure there would only be limited prosecutions in special cases. With the acquittal of the two BNP men, we now know this was a mistake. The remedy is simple. We will simply lower the bar again.”
Brown has already said that the preaching of religious of racial hatred offends mainstream opinion in Britain. “We have got to do what we can to root it out, from whatever quarter it comes. If that means we have to look at the laws again, we will have to do so.”
Given Brown’s new-found authority in his co-premiership with Blair, his call to arms to revisit the contents of the failed bill from February this year is already being met with action.
The February bill was watered down following a campaign led by the comedian and actor Rowan Atkinson, who claimed the original planned legislation would effectively outlaw even the most basic religious joke.
The government had wanted a tougher law to protect offences against Christians and Muslims,
who are not accounted for in laws which focus on specific protection.
After the effective Atkinson campaign, which resulted in the Lords rejecting the government’s plans, the likelihood of a successful criminal prosecution was limited by making only “threatening” words or behaviour, not abusive or insulting remarks, a fully criminal offence.
Prosecutions would be brought only if there was a case to answer on an intent to stir up hatred. “Recklessness” would be deemed insufficient for a guilty verdict.
After the failure of the Griffin- Collett case, those close to the process claimed it had been a politically motivated action, doomed to failure and was likely to turn Griffin into a freedom fighter and hero-martyr.
If Brown does indeed revisit the law and attempts to set the bar lower in race-hate cases, he may have the parliamentary power to do so. A full three-line whip, even with a marginal Labour rebellion, could be enough.
The government lost the full force of its bill earlier this year due to a mis calculation by the whips, who allowed 15 Scottish Labour MPs to miss the Commons vote.
However, it remains certain that rights campaigners will again mount another campaign to keep the law as it stands, regardless of the Griffin case, in which the BNP men were secretly filmed as they addressed a meeting calling Islam “a wicked, vicious faith”.
The backbench Labour rebellion may also be lessened if Brown focuses on the potential of the BNP to take votes away from Labour.
John Cruddas, who will be a deputy leadership contender when John Prescott steps down with Tony Blair, said people in Labour’s heartland political territory were losing hope and turning to the BNP in protest at events in mainstream UK politics.
Cruddas, a former Downing Street adviser, said the debate over Muslim veils, the language of the war on terror and “tough” talk on immigration had made things worse and “played into the hands of the extremists”.
12 November 2006
[The British Government are total hypocrites. Their own dubious remarks on race issues are causing a rise in support for lunatic neo-fascist groups like the BNP. Removing the right to free speech and daft laws outlawing criticism of religion (which frankly needs more criticism not less) will not help. Let's have independence soon and remove ourselves from this regime of incompetents. JOE]
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Brown to ‘lower bar’ for race-hate law