M/s Ann Widdecombe, MP,
House of Commons,
Palace of Westminster,

Dear M/s Widdecombe,

I admired your speaking in the House of Commons last week, when you spoke in defence of free speech, and for the amendments to Bill concerning “Race & Religious Hatred”. ( Frankly, I would have thrown the whole Bill in the bin, as yet another attempt to repress the right of open free speech and legitimate, out-spoken criticism; but the common person doesn’t have the power to do that.)

I am a passionate believer and staunch defender of free speech: without it, how can you know what people are really thinking? How can you bring the full spectrum of views into open debate, if people are too frightened and intimidated to say out loud what they really think?

My views (which I have stated publicly before now) are these

If I wish to criticise any religion on this Earth, I will do it.
If I wish to criticise any political doctrine or dogma on this Earth, I will do it.
If I wish to criticise any political doctrine, which hides behind the identity of a religion, then I will do it.
If I wish to criticise any religion or religious body, which knowingly allows itself to be used as affront-cover for practices which I find offensive and socially harmful, I will do it.

Having said that, I must have been one of the first people on the phone to the Home Office and the Met Police, complaining about some of the placards in the “Islamic” demo in London on Friday. I see a huge difference between peaceful, and non-violent criticism, and openly inciting violence and murder.

I sincerely hope, however, that no-one in Parliament, whether Home Secretary, Prime Minister or anyone else gets away with this as an excuse for re-introducing legislation to repress legitimate free speech. It bothered me that Mr Charles Clarke M.P. seemed to seize on the public disquiet about these parade-banners, as an excuse for “rubbing-it-in” over the way the “hatred” Bill could only be passed in a much amended and milder form. We must not allow ourselves to be black-mailed out of our free speech rights, because of marches like that.

Who is the real wrong-doer? The person who criticises in a peaceful way, or those who react to that by illegal means, by rioting, wrecking, burning, and advocating violence and murder?

Yours sincerely,

Evelyn Ward.