David Blackburn

The Hollobone dimension

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As Paul Goodman notes, it is entirely possible that Philip Hollobone’s statements about the burka were taken out of context. As far as I can gather Hollobone has not yet dissociated himself, which is indicative of the contrary.


The French ban on the burkha has English tongues wagging, and Hollobone has looked to stimulate debate. Islamic groups, many of them extreme, will now decamp to Hollobone’s constituency office in Kettering and look to foment a media storm. But so what? This is a debate that must be had.  For example, it must be determined in law whether or not the burka is a religious item, and therefore inviolable under laws of freedom of religious expression. If not, then it would be interesting to hear Muslims, especially women, defend it. A debate and test cases are required.

Even so, a British ban seems unlikely. The burka was seen as an affront to ‘Frenchness’. The ban might not withstand a right to free expression suit in either France or Europe, but I’m told it has a good chance of doing so, such is the power vested in the French state by its constitution. Owing to Britain’s  deliberately weak constitution, it seems to me that a ban issued by the executive would not survive a suit asserting the right to free expression, providing of course that such expression was genuinely free.