Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I hate your religion, whachu gonna do?

Yesterday in the House of Commons, the Government suffered a double defeat on its Religious Hatred Bill. The House of Lords had made a few amendments to tone down some of its harsher provisions, and these were put to the vote in the Commons. The Government lost the first by ten votes. Mirabile dictu, the Prime Minister was allowed to leave before the second vote took place, and the Government lost that by one vote. The finger of blame is being pointed at the Chief Whip for miscalculating – about 40 Labour MPs were absent from the House. This, however, is missing the point. As far as anyone is to blame, it is the Government. In the teeth of opposition from all sides, it obstinately pressed on with a law that no decent society should even countenance. There were protests against the Bill yesterday from many sections of society; evangelical Christians, comedians, members of the public, and even some muslim groups, the so-called intended beneficiaries of this new law. Today we have been told that ministers are ‘picking over the entrails’ of the defeat. I would advise them to leave that carcass alone. They would be better served by reacquainting themselves with the values of a civilised society: the basic principle of freedom of speech would be a good place to start.
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