Friday, November 30, 2007

Freedom of speech, teddybears and fascists

It was refreshing to see Caroline Flint's straightforward and honest performance on tonights Question Time. More politicians like her, please.

Freedom of speech is back on the agenda. We had the infamous debate at the Oxford Hooray Henry's Glee Club. I think it had precisely nothing to do with free speech and everything to do with publicity seeking tossers. Neither Irving nor Griffin are prevented from expressing their vile views within the law. But to invite them to do so - no.

As for Sudan. It goes without saying that I sympathise with Ms. Gibbons, and disagree with the Sudanese government. This is largely about political points being made by a government in a strop with the West, and Ms. Gibbons has been caught up in the mess. I do think, though, that it makes sense to be cautious whilst she remains in custody. I am also surprised that she seemed so naive as to what Sudan was actually like - surely someone from the school must have explained? I do think that one needs to be aware of the risks of working in countries with these sort of regimes.

When she is released, all aid should be automatically stopped until they are prepared to change. I would do the same for nearly all foreign aid, unless the country is prepared to sign up to secular democratic values. If they won't, then we will keep our money, and they can go stuff themselves. The third world lobby will whine as per usual, but if there's one issue I lean to the right on, then that's it. Why support a bunch of pre-modern homophobic religionists of either Christian or Muslim variety? The most civilised and progressive countries are both liberal and secular, and religion is kept in its proper place - for private piety, not public governance. The answer, though, is not to march in with troops in the hope that somehow one will be viewed as some sort of saviour - particularly when your own government has so many shortcomings.

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