This morning, on the Today programme, in a discussion of the fight between the ghastly Mayor of London and Trevor Phillips, Trevor Phillips defended his history on racial conflict by boasting he had made it illegal for prison officers to be members of the BNP. Government ministers openly reflected that, in light of the acquittal of the leader of the BNP laws should be changed so that they could get him next time. It was mooted that no member could join the police or work in the civil service as a whole. The BNP is a legal political party. It happens to be a vile one, but I think much the same about Respect, and not much more of the Liberal Democrats.
It is deeply, deeply disturbing that we have become so intolerant of certain minority opinions that we are prepared to bend and even break our own rules in order to disoblige those that hold them. The best way to defeat the BNP is to treat them as a political party, engage on the issues and demonstrate their failings. To treat them as an illegal body, when they are not, goes against every fibre of the British legal system. I am rather surprised that I feel this strongly, after all I have a visceral dislike for them and all their works (a dislike I am deliberately emphasising, as a gesture of how craven I am on the subject), yet principles of liberty, of free speech and freedom of association within the law are far far more important.
If one is only free to hold popular opinions, to have mainstream views, to join respectable parties or to believe conventional truths one is not truly free. If we believe that certain thoughts should be outlawed, and that it should be easier to ban political parties because we dislike the views they espouse, then we really are becoming little better than that which we seek to silence.