The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper, serving Greater Manchester

Stoning Tories doesn’t give you the moral high ground

After protestors at the University of Sussex shut down a debate about squatting, we discuss how this was pretty stupid.

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Protesters seem to have confused Sussex for Biblical times, as Tory MP Mike Weatherly found out when 50 pro-squatting protestors hurled rocks and other missiles at him when he came to speak at the University of Sussex.

He had been invited by the University’s Conservative Future group, to debate the controversial new squatting laws that the protestors take such issue with. Mr Weatherly had been campaigning for the criminalisation of squatting ever since his election to parliament in 2010, and as such was the perfect person for those opposed to the new squatting laws to say engage with and perhaps challenge using logical arguments in an environment where free speech is tolerated- perhaps within some sort of debate format, some could argue.

Whilst I jest, it seems so entirely shocking to the point of distress that these protestors seem to struggle with the basic idea of: when you are trying to show how someone is wrong (in your mind) by making them the victim, by, for instance, subjecting them to a violent attack, you shan’t gain many fans when you have made your ‘baddie’ into a victim.

There is a reason why we hold free speech so dear within this country, and indeed in most liberal countries, as it allows everybody to say what they think, and it allows for discussion of ideas so people can call out governments when they say silly things and hopefully lead to a situation where we end up with policies that aren’t entirely stupid. Of course, this doesn’t always happen, and people will always disagree with some things, and some governments will always pass stupid laws: but at least we can criticise them freely.

At the point at which headlines can go out exemplifying the fact that you are directly contradicting freedom of speech, and that you prevented from happening an event at which this person who you disagree with so heavily could have been questioned, could have been proven to be wrong (which you presumably believe they are, considering you campaign for the opposite side) then you have found the point at which you undermine all your aims and look rather foolish.

There’s a reason we condemn Iran for stoning people, a reason why we allow free speech: because without it our democracy is nothing.