The convocation of contrarianism otherwise known as Spiked, so named because it should have been long ago, has backed some less than totally deserving causes in the past, but the latest to be embraced by Brendan O’Neill takes the biscuit in no style at all. Bren has decided that someone who shouldn’t have been found guilty of harassment, on the grounds that the harassment wasn’t really so bad, and politicians should learn to accept it.
However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, the person found guilty of harassment is none other than Amy Dalla Mura, otherwise known as Based Amy, and the latest target of her harassment is former Tory MP Anna Soubry, who has already been the subject of harassment bordering on threatening behaviour by James Goddard, self-styled leader of the UK version of the Gilets Jaunes movement.
Heckling politicians is one thing; using language like “Traitor”, which is then fed into the far-right ecosystem, is another thing entirely. We know where the use of such language leads - because one MP was brutally murdered outside her constituency surgery three and a half years ago. But perhaps the Spiked crew have forgotten about Jo Cox.
The BBC report tells you all you need to know about Ms Dalla Mura’s latest brush with the law. “An election candidate standing in the same seat as Anna Soubry has been found guilty of harassing her and banned from campaigning in the constituency … English Democrat candidate Amy Dalla Mura is standing in Broxtowe, Nottinghamshire, which Ms Soubry has represented since 2010”. She will be sentenced after the General Election.
There was more. “The court heard Dalla Mura, from Hove, attended an event in Parliament on 23 January where Ms Soubry was speaking, repeatedly interrupting her and live streaming the event on her phone. The meeting was eventually abandoned when she refused to stop … The court was also told Dalla Mura approached Ms Soubry in Parliament's Central Lobby while she was appearing on BBC Newsnight on 14 March, calling her a ‘traitor’ while again filming her”. Ms Soubry is right to feel threatened.
So what does O’Neill say about this routine exercise of legal powers? “Is it against the law to protest against Anna Soubry? A woman has been convicted of ‘harassing’ Soubry by protesting against her. This is deeply troubling”. See, it’s not really harassment because Bren put it in quote marks. But do go on. “This is a deeply disturbing verdict. It should worry everyone who believes in the political right to challenge MPs and the broader elite”.
The broader elite including Brendan O’Neill. Have another go. “The truth is that Dalla Mura’s actions would strike a great many people as political activity, not harassment”. Where is the T-word, Bren? He does manage to say “traitor” twice during his screed, but it is almost a throwaway term. Not much really. Except it is key to the action.
Amy Dalla Mura is not just heckling at a public meeting. She is part of the far-right posse that is ramping up threatening behaviour towards its targets, taking the Brexit debate into the kind of territory where the mob gets riled up and people get hurt. She is not about reasoned debate. It is not knockabout fun. It has a history of being deadly serious.
Brendan O’Neill should remember where his version of free speech can lead.
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