Walking around the communities delivering leaflets a surprising number of people have stopped me to ask about my position on personal freedoms, specifically the freedom to speak and the freedom to demonstrate. Obviously, the government bringing forward legislation to curtail people’s personal rights and the ‘ban the bill’ protests have raised the profile of personal freedoms and the threat to peaceful protest has struck a cord amongst many people.
I do sympathise. Over the years I’ve been on many marches and protests, mainly in relation to the environment and farming, protesting against things like GM crops and bee killing pesticides.
And in terms of personal right to peaceful protect and free speech I’m with Voltaire “I may disagree with what you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. And shouldn’t that be the position of our government. Isn’t defending personal freedoms the primary role of a democratic government? Which then begs the question, if a democratically elected government looks to curtail freedom personal freedoms has that government lost the moral right to govern?
But this also is a problem in our national and local government. How many of our elected MPs and councillors are really free to vote with their conscience or in support of what they genuinely believe to be in the interests of the people they represent? National party politics exerts so much pressure on MPs and councillors to toe the party line that too many of our councillors forget they are elected to represent the best interests of their electorate and just vote with the party. Too often important policy is made by local government without debate, with councillors looking around to see how their leader is voting and voting along party lines.
But isn’t this just another example of government and national parties removing our freedoms? If our elected representatives are not free to speak out on our behalf, how can we be free?
Thankfully this is not a problem for Independent councillors like myself. I am part of a loose group of like-minded independent councillors, the Lincolnshire Independents, but I am not directly influenced by the group; and nor would I look to directly influence other independent councillors. In my mind I’m independent first and Lincolnshire Independent second which means we Independent councillors don’t block vote. It’s a matter of discussion to see if we have common ground which means it’s not unusual for Independents to vote with their conscience which, in turn, means our vote is often fragmented.
But that’s not a weakness, that’s a strength in a world where our personal freedoms are being eroded by too many of the national party MPs and councillors, elected by us to represent us, are themselves not free.