Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Ejecting Dissent 

Politics is serious business, maybe too serious to be left to politicians; but I rue the day when politicians take themselves too seriously and become a menace to our cherished freedoms. In the days of Michael Foot and Denis Healey, when the British Labour party still had a shred of principle in them, heckling was looked upon as a necessary nuisance. Why, the two stalwarts made their names by their expertise in handling hecklers, and even the old fox Harold Wilson seemed to relish an occasional spat with bruisers in the audience.

At their annual conference last year, the party that now revels in the name of New Labour — out with the Internationale, in with the moneybags and the spin doctors — threw out 82-year old activist Walter Wolfgang for shouting these words: "That's a lie and you know it." The 'you' he was directing his words to was Jack Straw, ex-Stalinist, ex President of the National Union of Students, currently Foreign Secretary in the Labour govenment. I am being careful here by saying that he's a former Stalinist, not wanting to make the same mistake as the Independent's Robert Fisk who accused Straw of being an Old Trot. That, said Straw, was a malicious libel.

So as the Old Non-Trot Straw heckler ejectedwas saying that Britain was in Iraq for one reason only, to help the elected Iraqi government, old Wolfgang started to heckle him. As you can see from the picture [left], New Labour brooks no opposition from its ranks. This is what happened as the Daily Telegraph reported it:"Mr Wolfgang, a refugee from Nazi Germany and a Labour Party member since 1948, was immediately surrounded by security staff in full view of the television cameras and ejected from the hall in Brighton as officials revoked his pass." [Click on picture to see the BBC story and video.] When Wolfgang tried to re-enter the Conference he was stopped by police who issued a section 44 stop and search form under the Terrorism Act. When the Terrorism Bill was discussed in 2000, one of its opponents, Alan Simpson MP said: "Potentially, it turns activist movements into terrorist movements." Here it made an 82-year old anti-war heckler-activist a potential terrorist.

In April, Stan Rogers, in Mid Wales, sent an e-mail to his local authority to express concern about a recycling facility that he believed they were going to build near his residence. Instead of receiving a reply from the council about his concern, Mr Rogers received the police at his door very early one morning, warning him not to write again to the council in such terms. Mr Rogers's 'mistake' in his e-mail that justified a police visit was that he had embellished it with this famous quotation from German theologian Martin Niemoeller:
"In Germany, the Nazis first came for the Communists and I did not speak up because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak up because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak up because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came up for the Catholics and I did not speak up because I was not a Catholic.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak up for me."
The local authority in Mid Wales may not be Nazi, nor New Labour a chorus of arm-raising jackboot stompers, but if this is how they reply to dissent in Wales and in London, it does send shivers down the old spine.


Ejecting Dissent

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