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UKIP speaks up for free speech - London Assembly votes against it

Posted by Helen Wednesday, October 13, 2004

What is the London Assembly for? One struggles to explain the need for such a completely useless and unnecessary body. It cannot even control the pharaonic plans of a megalomaniac Mayor, who is equally unnecessary for London’s well-being. Given that the business of London is business, if one may misquote President Calvin Coolidge, having a severely anti-business, tax-and-regulation-mad Mayor is the height of lunacy.

Today the London Assembly had its once a month plenary meeting, which lasted from ten o’clock till lunchtime. During that Lord Coe and Ken Livingstone were questioned on the Olympic bid and turned extremely coy on the subject of financial details.

Then they had the most extraordinary debate. Apparently, one of its members, Brian Coleman, who is also the Chairman of the Assembly, had had the temerity to express his private view that the United States was right not to sign the Kyoto Protocol. It seems this wretched Protocol has now become one of the no-go areas for speech or writing. Perhaps, next time there are calls for amending the blasphemy legislation, the Kyoto Protocol should be included or, even, made the only dogma that cannot be criticized, no matter how many scientists and economists may cast doubt on it.

To start with, the Greens, supported by the Labour group put down a motion of censure, replete with various mis-statements:

“This Assembly notes the overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming is a genuine threat and reaffirms the Assembly’s support for firm action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to tackle climate change.

This Assembly condemns the statement made by the Chair of the Assembly on the website of the Enfield and Barnet United Nations Association in which he expresses support for the United States Government’s refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol and in which he expresses doubts about the reality of global warming.

This Assembly urges the Chair of the Assembly to retract his comments.”
The Assembly, as it happens, has nothing to do with the whole argument about Kyoto but, if it wanted to do something about a reduction in supposed global warming, some unkind people have suggested, it might start by cutting back on its own emission of hot air. But then, if one passed that sort of regulation, where would that stop? How much is the UN contributing to global warming through the activity of its General Assembly and Security Council?

The Lib-Dem group wanted to show its tolerant open-minded side. So, they put down an amendment to the motion:

Delete all references to Chair of the Assembly and replace with the Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden.

In second paragraph replace condemns with “disagrees with”.

Motion would then read:-

“This Assembly notes the overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming is a genuine threat and reaffirms the Assembly’s support for firm action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to tackle climate change.

This Assembly disagrees with the statement made by the Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden on the website of the Enfield and Barnet United Nations Association in which he expresses support for the United States Government’s refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol and in which he expresses doubts about the reality of global warming.

This Assembly urges the Assembly Member for Barnet & Camden to retract his comments.”

I am sure our readers would have noticed the subtle differences in the wording.

However, the killer amendment was put down by Damian Hockney, leader of the UKIP group:

Delete all words except "This assembly condemns..." and replace with

"..any attempt to censure or to restrict the freedom of speech of its Members when speaking in a private or party capacity"
Easy, you might think and unexceptionable. But the Assembly voted against it. To be fair, it then voted against the Lib-Dem amendment, probably because of the general dislike of the Lib-Dem tendency of trying to have their cake and eating it; it also voted against the substantive motion, because the Lib-Dems were piqued enough to vote with the Tories and UKIP.

Still, the fact remains that the London Assembly, a fully, freely and fairly elected body (even if nobody quite knows what it is for and most people do not bother to vote) has voted against its members’ right to free speech. Will all regional assemblies have the same attitude?