Nick Cohen

Do Brexit Party supporters know who they are really voting for?

Do Brexit Party supporters know who they are really voting for?
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When people challenge my opinions I shrug, said Vladimir Nabokov. When people challenge my facts, I reach for my dictionary.

Brendan O’Neill, formerly of the Revolutionary Communist Party and Living Marxism, now of Spiked, has had me reaching for mine. He accuses me of lying, a charge which might send a less liberal journalist than me to his lawyers. He says my charge that his comrades and the Brexit Party's European Parliament candidates Claire Fox, James Heartfield and Alka Sehgal Cuthbert are cavalier about the abuse of children “are lies, straight-up, low-down lies,” “character assassination”, and an act of desperation by the remain side.

The desperation is all his. For mysterious reasons it might be worth journalists getting to the bottom of, Farage has picked candidates who used to belong to the RCP – despite the group's long history of defending the IRA – a history I notice Comrade O’Neill does not deny. I cannot imagine Brexit Party voters being happy with that. Or voters from any other party.

Perhaps wisely, O’Neill passes over it. Instead he wants us to concentrate on the opposition to the censorship of child pornography on the Web. It’s not true. Lies, lies, all lies, he cries. Really?

Here is the evidence. First Fox. To give O’Neill his due, she does twist and turn like a true politician in her recent interview with the Daily Telegraph's Christopher Hope. (As O’Neill did not provide a link, here it is). But when cornered she says that she does not want child pornography banned.

“But do you still agree though that there should be no censorship of the internet?” asked the interviewer.

“Yes,” replied Fox

“And that includes child porn?”


Asked again if child porn videos “should be banned” she replied “no”. She does say she finds child porn vile and I suppose deserves some credit for that. But then she goes and spoils it all by adding “actually most child porn is not child porn because it’s simulated.” Well some is, some isn’t. 

O’Neill suggests that it is a “lie” and not just any lie but a “straight-up, low-down lie” to accurately transcribe the verbatim comments of a political candidate seeking office. I am sorry if this makes him clutch his pearls and reach for the smelling salts, but this is what a free press in a free country does.

Lying, or editing so selective it comes close to lying, is on display in O’Neill’s defence of Alka Sehgal Cuthbert, his old friend and a Faragist candidate in London. All his comrade had done in his Spiked magazine was argue “that it is wrong to describe young people’s watching of general porn as a form of child abuse”.

Here are the facts that O’Neill does not mention. Sehgal Cuthbert was responding to an NSPCC definition of child abuse that includes adults “involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.’

To which she fulminates “in what world is enticing a child into prostitution or anal intercourse in any sense equivalent to kissing or looking at pornographic images?”

I can’t imagine any parent thinking that a man showing their son or daughter pornography was innocently exercising his rights to free speech. I imagine they would call the police, as would I.

But notice O’Neill so edits the passage that he would have you believe that his RCP comrade was just saying that do-gooding charities had ruled it was child abuse for children to watch porn on the Internet. He removes the adults from the scene entirely. As I said, if this is not quite lying, it is most certainly not telling the truth.

Finally to James Heartfield, who O’Neill paints as another victim. Once again, I provide links to his contribution on the subject of child abuse.

He has written against “the myth of the ubiquitous and incurable predatory paedophile” and said “the argument that the [sex offenders’] register provides for greater safety makes little sense”.

He added that “fears of child sex abuse are deeply atavistic and rarely susceptible to reasoned argument.”

He has argued that the sex offenders’ register would “encroach upon the freedom of movement of sex offenders”.

And he said the “Tory Party had great success in the 1980s in characterising the problems of paedophilia and other abuses of children as a terrible threat to society…this is of course fantasy politics.”

Now he is Nigel Farage’s candidate in the European elections. Vote for him and the rest of Farage’s apologists for the IRA if you must. But journalism’s purpose is to ensure that you vote knowing who and what you are voting for. It is that purpose O’Neill, like Trump, Corbyn and so many others is trying to scream down.