Rod Liddle

My poster girl for free speech

She’s been given an anti-social behaviour notice for expressing her political beliefs in the window of her own home

My poster girl for free speech
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Now is the time of year to take down the Christmas decorations from your front window and put up, in their place, the anti-immigration posters. Please display them prominently and make sure the message on each is suitably strident. It behoves all of us to do this, as quickly as possible, even — perhaps especially — if we are liberally minded. For this is not about immigration, per se. It is to show solidarity with Ms Anne Maple, who is aged 61 and unfortunate enough to live in Lewisham.

I do not know Ms Maple personally. It may well be that, rather than a sainted individual, she is a meddlesome old ratbag. Either way, Lewisham Council has issued her with a total of eight anti-social behaviour notices in the last few years, for stuff like messing about with the communal bins near her home and also for feeding foxes (which I was not aware was an anti-social act. It seems to me a rather kindly act. Unless the council thought she was ‘grooming’ the animals preparatory to setting them on her neighbours.) Anyway, Mrs Maple’s most notable notices were issued for neither the bin business nor her vulpine catering services. It was because she put up posters advising passers-by to support Brexit and vote Conservative and, apparently, urging an end to immigration.

Yes — they gave her a couple of ‘Asbos’ for advertising her legitimate political beliefs in the window of her own home; beliefs which on the face of it are shared by 52 per cent of the voters (Brexit), 38 per cent of the population (latest Conservative poll standings) or about 70 per cent of the population (no more immigration). Regarding this last issue, this is what the magnificently arrogant council officials had to say to her: ‘It has been brought to our attention that you have displayed a sign in your window regarding immigrants or perceived immigrants in the UK. We advise you to remove this sign immediately and if you are found to have continued this behaviour Lewisham Homes may take action.’

Remarkable, no? I am also interested to know what these leftie authoritarians mean by ‘perceived immigrants’. Do they mean people who aren’t actually immigrants, except in Ms Maple’s mind? Perhaps Lewisham thinks there are no immigrants whatsoever in their awful borough. I suppose it is all too easy for me to say — since I own my home and do not have to abide by the sort of restrictions upon freedom of speech that clearly pertain in Lewisham — that had I received such a missive I would have gone berserk and papered the entire outside of my house with strongly worded injunctions against immigrants. But in this respect Ms Maple is less fortunate than me. She must worry that she will lose her home or perhaps eventually be given a prison sentence or a fine. ‘M’lud, the defendant has consistently and unashamedly made visible her support for the Conservative party and the time has surely come for a custodial sentence.’

I ought to add, incidentally, that I read a story recently about Dr Liam Fox’s neighbours who had put up pro-EU posters very close to his house and caused a bit of a furore. I was on their side then just as I am on Ms Maple’s side now. I think if I were living next door to Liam, or Nigel Farage, I would probably display posters in my window designed solely to annoy them. But then I actually am anti-social, whereas Ms Maple’s intention was rather different.

The great counter-revolution of 2016 has nowhere near run its course, as this appalling story amply demonstrates. Indeed, one of the sub-tropes of the year was of liberals suffering cognitive dissonance, of the maddened banshees howling in outrage when people expressed views which ran counter to their way of thinking. A way of thinking which they believed was unchallengeable. And so, for them, Tories are not merely people with different opinions, but ‘scum’ who can be safely spat at in the street without censure. Brexiteers are knuckle-dragging, uneducated xenophobes and racists whose views should be — and probably are — illegal. Certainly not views to be respected, any more than the democratic consequences of their opinions — a Tory government, Trump in the White House, Brexit.

And I suppose we should go easy on the drongos of Lewisham Council when this state of mind is so prevalent among a pretty large-ish swath of the liberal left. You can witness it most obviously on university campuses, with their idiotic and infantile ‘safe spaces’, where those who disagree with any one of countless ludicrous shibboleths are denied freedom of speech — but also throughout social media, in newspapers columns and even here, from our own Matthew Parris. ‘These people are vile and stupid. And perhaps it is time to end the disastrous democratic experiment’ is the subtext of this strange, inchoate fury. Lewisham Council is far from alone in believing that views held by the 52 per cent or 70 per cent of the population are illegitimate and deserving of court action when expressed in public.

My guess is that this rather worrying absolutism and arrogance was there all along, but that it was more easily concealed when the big votes went their way, when there was no discernible challenge. When the march of history seemed to be in one direction. It is only now that this patent hatred is daily visible, now that they have been magnificently gainsaid, now that the public have at last spoken up. You have to say it was a long time coming. But while the liberal elite may have controlled the agenda, they never actually had hegemony. The rest of us were always rather reluctant communicants at the Church of Liberal Pieties.

Anyway, a new rallying cry for 2017. Je Suis Anne Maple! Has a ring to it, no?