Eye-opening thread highlighting Tories’ history with freedom of speech goes viral

<p>Despite Gavin Williamson’s (L) attempts to fight censorship, this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is just one victim of such curbs under Tory rule</p>

Despite Gavin Williamson’s (L) attempts to fight censorship, this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is just one victim of such curbs under Tory rule

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With the Tory Party busy trying to paint themselves as the defenders of free speech on the front lines of a culture war, it’d be easy to forget that they’ve historically pretty fond of censorship themselves.

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, has this week proposed a set of government interventions aimed at “stamp[ing] out unlawful ‘silencing’ on campuses”.

These include the appointment of a new “free speech and academic freedom champion” at the higher education regulator, the Office for Students, and new legislation allowing universities to be punished financially if they are deemed to be failing to protect free speech. Williamson also aims to make it easier for people to sue educators if they are expelled, dismissed or demoted on grounds deemed to be relating to free speech.

If this wasn’t enough, the culture secretary Oliver Dowden – who, according to The Telegraph, wants to “defend our culture and history from the noisy minority of activists constantly trying to do Britain down” – has reportedly written to heritage bodies such as the National Trust with the apparent threat of financial repercussions should they “run from or airbrush the history upon which they are founded”.

Meanwhile, The Times – which, in an editorial, said that ministers “are right to be concerned” – reported that a review of 10,000 speaker events at universities found that just six had been cancelled.

Of these, the paper reported that “four lacked the required paperwork, one was a fraudster recruiting for a pyramid scheme and the other was Jeremy Corbyn, whose rally was simply moved to a larger venue off-campus”.

But as the education secretary bravely wades into this clearly very pressing campus war, an academic has pointed out the many times that censorship has occurred under Tory rule.

Tabitha McIntosh, a doctoral researcher at Birbeck, University of London, decided to compile a list of these past attacks on freedom of speech or expression.

There’s too many examples to list them all here, but highlights stem from past outrage and concern over the morality or patriotic suitability of subjects ranging from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (sorry, “Hero Turtles”) and Massive Attack, to the 2014 ban on UK-made porn depicting BDSM or female ejaculation, and the current criminal trial of a man who posted an offensive message about Captain Sir Tom Moore.

This is not to mention Margaret Thatcher’s bigoted Section 28 law, which banned councils and schools from “promoting” homosexuality “as a pretended family relationship”.

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