Councillor John Whitby, UKIP, representative for Fletton and Stanground: Free to use our freedom to speak

As we move towards the May local council elections I was interested in a piece on BBC news regarding the loss of local newspapers, and the effect that has on people's engagement in local politics.

Sunday, 25th March 2018, 1:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 27th March 2018, 1:35 pm
Speaker's Corner columnists - Peterborough Telegraph -, @peterboroughtel on Twitter,

As we move towards the May local council elections I was interested in a piece on BBC news regarding the loss of local newspapers, and the effect that has on people’s engagement in local politics.

It’s very true that as you remove the direct connection between local people and local politics, they not only become less engaged and less informed, but they also become much more cynical.

Engaging people is even harder when their view of politics and politicians is informed by things like the recent Full Council meeting, where the behaviour was appalling.

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I was, due to illness, unable to attend, but I wasn’t totally surprised.

My view, that a local councillor is there to try and do the best for the local area and the local resident, is often submerged beneath party politics and the need to score points, especially when the audience is large.

Video relays and instant communication means that in many areas the public is now better informed than ever, even though some of the information is questionable, and often biased.

Politicians now find it hard to defend a complete change of heart from one week to the next when the evidence is available on YouTube!

However, that doesn’t stop them trying, and recent information from Google shows that they’ve had many requests to remove content that might be embarrassing to politicians and celebrities from their search results, using EU rules.

This makes the government position on ‘fake news’ interesting. Just what is ‘fake news’?

Is it really fake? Or simply news that the officials would rather not have in the public domain?

The subjugation of the Telford grooming gangs revelation last week being a case in point. The wrong news?

Another reason people often don’t trust official announcements is the bland speech that’s used, often, obvious issues and problems are ignored in a generic statement that the majority of the public can see is false or misleading.

One problem is that it is now almost impossible to make a statement on anything, without potentially ‘offending’ some person or group.

As a result, official output deliberately says nothing much at all.

But with other media, this isn’t the case, information can get out and ‘cause offence’.

So, to prevent this happening, the Government cracks down on people who send the wrong message, or it’s ignored by mainstream media. Recently, events have been cancelled and people excluded from the country, for wanting to discuss the importance of freedom of speech.

Unfortunately, freedom of speech will cause offence.

No one should be afraid to voice criticism of authority, government, religions, or any other group that affects our daily lives.

If anything is above criticism, then it’s out of control and very dangerous.

People have to accept that in a free, open society, offence will be made, because unless you are free to question anything, then you have no real freedom.

Debate of opposing views is vital, we cannot have a single sided argument.

My view on free speech is simple.

If it doesn’t advocate violence, or the breaking of the law, then it should not only be allowed, it should be defended.

If you don’t want to listen, then don’t listen, but your opinion should not prevent others from listening and making up their own mind.