It’s not often that this blog will seek to defend the actions of Liberal Democrat councillors, or indeed the half-witted Government that they support.
But I think John Dixon needs a bit of solidarity. Councillors should have the right to say what they like, insofar as they do not actively break the law. The Local Authority Member’s Code of Conduct therefore looks rather more stringent than it should be, if, that is, that the Standards Board is able to shut the councillor up.
I personally defend the right to religious freedom, and would be heavily opposed to nonsense like bans on veils and crosses, things which are matters of individual choice no matter how absurd those of us without religion might consider them to be. People have a right to absurdity, for a start.
But beyond that, people also have a right to objective sense. I also think that Church of Scientology is pretty dense. I defend their right to criticise the councillor, and his to criticise them. I don’t see how his being critical in any way limits their freedom or incites hatred against them. It certainly breaks no primary legislation.
If it is important that the right of people to criticise freely is maintained, surely it is even more important to make sure that those who they choose to elect are free to represent those views, and that the public are able to know that elected officials actually hold them. What is the point in making some opinions on the part of councillors ‘secret only’, if they are not words that result in anybody being harmed?
Just as it was wrong to suspend Ken Livingstone over his misjudged but nevertheless legal rant at Oliver Feingold, it is wrong to suspend a councillor simply for voicing his own opinions, particularly as neither of these instances caused harm. It should be electors that decide on this stuff, not unaccountable members of the Standards Board – an organisation which is far too restrictive of legitimate opinion, and needs serious overhaul.