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Thursday 28 February 2013

The Standard Now Understands Blacklisting

Last month I noted that the construction industry blacklist, which should have been closed down back in 2008, appeared to have been in use until much more recently. This was brought to light by the Liverpool Echo, which pointed out that 150 of those on the list were from Merseyside, and many had been unable to find work for many years as a result.

Heathrow Airport

As so often, though, those politicians and media outlets that shout loudest about personal liberty and freedom kept schtum about the whole business, the basic human rights concerned being those which should clearly not be extended to Trades Unionists or other rotten lefties. But one newspaper has seen the scales fall from its eyes with the news of John Stewart.

Stewart, not to be confused with the Daily Show host, is retired. He has no criminal convictions. He is not known to the Police. But he is a tireless environmental campaigner, and has protested against the potential expansion of London’s Heathrow Airport. And now it seems this has led to him, too, being added to the blacklist without his knowledge.

He had gone to the USA in late 2011 to travel across the country and meet other campaigners. After arrival, he was refused entry and escorted onto the next available flight back to London. At the time, the Evening Standard took the line that this was due to his being involved in campaigning, but now that the true reason has been revealed, the reaction has been rather more significant.

A troubling blacklist and our basic rights” was the headline yesterday. This time, the paper called the original blacklist, of construction industry workers, “disturbing in itself”, and the notification by the GMB Union that there may also be 200 environmental activists somewhere in there “very disquieting indeed”. It is a great relief to welcome the Standard on board.

As the paper puts it, “if it includes people whose only offence is to hold views or conduct campaigns that some companies or institutions find troublesome, it becomes downright frightening, particularly if it affects people’s basic rights, including freedom of movement ... Good citizens must be free to engage in public-spirited campaigns without fearing for their rights”.

With these sentiments, no libertarian can possibly disagree. So where is the support from those who proclaim their love of freedom? Where are the libertarian lobby groups and bloggers? Where are the libertarian MPs and peers? From all of them has come nothing more than the most deafening of silences. Clearly some are more entitled to freedom of movement than others.

That’s utter and rank hypocrisy. And it’s not good enough.

1 comment:

Adam said...

While the construction industry blacklist is a scandal and the idea that it might still be circulating and ruining lives even now is outrageous, there really isn't any evidence that the list had anything to do with John Stewart and his trouble entering the US.

Reading the Mother Jones website account from 2011, it seems fairly obvious that the US had identified Dan Glass, a fellow speaker on the intended US tour, as a proponent of direct action and of high-profile stunts such as trying to glue himself to Gordon Brown.

The account of the questions which John was asked were focussed on "Do you know Dan Glass" and "Are you planning any acts of civil disobedience". Although John reasonably said No to all these questions, it seems to me that he became guilty by association and was denied entry on those grounds.

The fact that he has just found out that he is apparently on the construction industry list appears irrelevant. He has made a leap of logic that if x has happened to him that it must have been caused by y that just isn't supported by anything but his own supposition.

I am a massive fan of your blog and read it everyday, but felt that if we allow supposition to enter the debate then it has the potential to undermine the overall argument about the blacklist, as it strikes of paranoia and that could be attributed to the whole protest.