Freedom of Speech in England:
A Proposal for Its Recovery
(9th May 2021)
It is now an official fact that England is a country where freedom of speech is in danger. According to the Secretary of State for Education,
Despite the development and publication of [non-binding guidance in 2019], incidents of concern are still reported, including open attempts to suppress speech which too often go unchallenged by those in leadership positions. There are still too many reported instances of freedom of speech and academic freedom not being adequately protected within higher education, and of students and staff being intimidated or harassed as a result of their views. There is also evidence of an emerging culture of intolerance of freedom of expression amongst a significant and vocal minority on university campuses
There is much to welcome in this Report. But the problem it describes is not only in higher education. Undoubtedly, there is in the universities a militant and growing intolerance of diversity. So far as these are creatures of the taxpaying public, this intolerance should be uncovered and ended. Intolerance, however, has become an omnipresent fact in the country as a whole. I have never seen discussion in England, political or otherwise, so constrained as it has become in the past twenty years – or perhaps in just the past five years. Defending freedom of speech means looking beyond the universities. It also means looking beyond the State and its various satellites. That a sovereign government should issue a formal report, lamenting how freedom of speech has decayed, is proof in itself that this is not a problem of censorship by the executive body of a centralised state. If we need Acts of Parliament to set us free again, we need more extensive Acts of Parliament than those here proposed.