Eastbourne council’s bar on Katie Hopkins speech raises freedom of speech issue

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From: ROGER BARNARD

Devonshire Place

I was dismayed to read that our council has barred Katie Hopkins from delivering a planned speech at UKIP’s invitation in Eastbourne’s new conference centre.

I know very little about this lady except that she was a widely-read columnist on a national newspaper with robust right-wing views who was the loser in an expensive libel action which effectively destroyed her journalistic career.

As a democratic socialist for the whole of my adult life, I hold no brief for her political views, but do the citizens of Eastbourne really need to be protected like vulnerable infants from what the council describes as her ‘inflammatory and deeply offensive’ comments?

George Orwell famously said that ‘If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear’.

It is by the slow but inexorable accumulation of idiotic actions like those of this council that we are sleepwalking towards a new kind of intellectual fascism in which we will suddenly wake up and find that all of our ancient liberties and freedoms have been lost – for ever.