Conservative Election Manifesto and Freedom of Speech

The party election manifestos are filled with large, often eye catching promises. Often these are costly; such as the ongoing question whether the Conservative party can afford £8billion for the NHS. But sometimes they are lest costly in terms of money but more so in other ways. One such is the question of how we fight against extremism - usually the type in mins is Islamic extremism. 

For these policies the cost is not so much financial, but in terms of liberties. The Conservative party in its manifesto pledges to "outlaw groups that foment hate with the introduction of new Banning Orders for extremist organisations." It also says they "will create new Extremism Disruption Orders". Both would seem to have implications for freedom of speech as they are meant to stop extremists using organisations or the internet to spread their message. The intention then is to reduce radicalisation.

The problem with any manifesto pledge is we know so little detail. Who is going to count as an extremist? The government broadened its defintion to "vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs" only last year.1 So would the Conservatives want to change a definition they only just settled on? If not why would these new extremists not be already provided for by current legislation?

Of course legislating is very different to writing a manifesto. The outcome just needs to be close enough to the promise to pass muster - or it may ultimately be ignored entirely!

read a more detailed version on our Free Speech Debate site 

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