We all enjoy some basic freedoms in this country.
- People should be free to get together with their friends, demonstrate and express their points of view, pretty much whatever they may be. That’s a basic freedom. It includes freedom to express contrarian points of view, even to sow fear, and aggravate dissension up to a point. But push it to the nth degree, and this freedom compromises other freedoms.
- People should be free to get on with their lives, conduct their businesses, enjoy their leisure on a bank holiday weekend, without their streets being hijacked by demonstrators.
- People should be free to be themselves safely in a country that has been diverse since the Bronze Age, subject to wave after wave of immigration and settlement, with corresponding interaction and synthesis. That is the basis of the Eglish language and culture that has, historically, thrived on its capacity to interact, adopt, adapt, modulate freely.
- People should be free to live in a law-abiding, stable, democracy, which works out differences together, not by setting people against their neighbours. If you want to change things, you know where the ballot box is. All you have to do is persuade others you are right, and off you go. If, however, you can’t persuade them, bully boy tactics are no substitute.
Here’s the rub. In a basically tolerant, peaceful town, what do you do about roving right wing nuttery? You could organise a left wing demonstraton — fight fire with fire. I could imagine circumstances where that could be necessary. Racism, ignorance and rampant prejudice are obscene, and rightly provoke passionate opposition. I’m happy to sign up to anything that makes that basic point. The fact is, the vast majority of people in Aylesbury are tolerant and law-abiding. That’s a very important part of what it means to be English for them. We know we’ve got our share of social problems, but these are best worked through and sorted between the people concerned as neighbours, not by bussing in extremists for a day out.
Therefore, after carefully and sympathetically considering options with community and faith leaders, under pressure to face down a right wing demo by what’s bound to end up a left wing demo, I can understand why people want to react like this, but I’m just not persuaded. Doing this is more likely to feed EDL’s hunger for significance, than to achieve anything positive here on this occasion. In collaboration with the Mayor of Aylesbury, I released this statement yesterday through AVDC:
The Town Mayor, Ranjula Tandokra’s, statement (the call I’m supporting) goes thus:
Aylesbury is a peaceful, law-abiding town. Anything that turns it into a set for factional posing, left or right, is not helpful. Racist organisations don’t deserve the oxygen of publicity. The best way for people to stand up to racism is to show there’s a better way to live, by staying calm and getting on with their lives in mutual respect
The best traditions of our country include the Christian values of living in harmony, doing as we would be done by, loving our neighbour as ourselves. Whatever our neighbours’ race, religion or culture, we respect them and want them to have the same freedom to be themselves that we all enjoy.
That's why I support our town mayor’s call for people not to join any outsider-organised demonstrations on 1 May, and for outside activists please to leave us alone to get on with our life in peace.
It is my opinion that Aylesbury has a peace loving community and on the 1 May, with most the shops and places of entertainment closed for the afternoon, it would be more profitable for Aylesbury residents to spend their time at home with their families and friends.
The fewer people there are in the town centre when the English Defence League hold their meeting, or for any other form of demonstration, the less likely it is that there will be any disruption to the life of the town.The best way to show the EDL that we do not support them is to avoid showing them any form of attention including any opposition event on the same day.
Let us celebrate our fun, friendly, peace loving multicultural society and united Town by letting them arrive, have their speeches and then depart peacefully. This will give Aylesbury the opportunity to celebrate our multicultural community at a time that suits us and on our own terms without provocation or threats.