UKIP: Against free speech

10 Good Reasons to Vote for UKIPThere’s a poster that’s been live on the Internet for a while. UKIP don’t like it, obviously, but apparently one UKIP politician likes it so little that he actually tried to get the police to have it taken down.

I was quite doubtful about this blog when I first read it, because it seemed so improbable that any politician would do anything so damaging to his own party.

[Update: But apparently that Cambridgeshire UKIP councillor is not the only UKIP representative to think the police's job is to stifle criticism of their party: Ukip's South East chairman Janice Atkinson and her fellow candidates Patricia Culligan and Alan Stevens have written to the police this week demanding they arrest any protester who calls them "fascists".]

Yesterday afternoon as I was debating whether to continue watching some lame James Caan movie about midget submarines, I was disturbed by a police officer peering through my lounge window. I do live on the ground floor, so not as surprising as you may have imagined. I went to the door and there were two constables there. The first thing they said was that there was nothing to be worried about, they just wanted to come in for a chat. Not something that has ever happened to me before, but I showed them in and sat them on the sofa.

They wondered if I was the Michael Abberton on Twitter and I said yes. Then they said this was in relation to a complaint that had been made by a certain political party in relation to tweets I had published about them and one tweet in particular which talked about ten reasons to vote for them. The PC wanted to know if I had made that poster. I explained that I hadn’t but it had been doing the rounds on Twitter for a while, and so I had decided to see if these claims could be verified.


Now, it is a long-standing tradition in UK political campaigns that you are allowed wide latitude to say what you like when campaigning. You are not allowed to say things about a political candidate that you know to be untrue in order to cost that candidate votes, but you are allowed to say that he’s a self-serving millionaire ex-banker career politician out to exploit people’s fears and raking off huge sums in European Parliamentary expenses. Not least, because all of that is verifiable. (Steve Bell nails it, as usual.)

The Cambridgeshire police told Michael Abberton

this was in relation to a complaint that had been made by a certain political party in relation to tweets I had published about them and one tweet in particular which talked about ten reasons to vote for them. The PC wanted to know if I had made that poster. I explained that I hadn’t but it had been doing the rounds on Twitter for a while, and so I had decided to see if these claims could be verified.

In doing this I set myself strict rules – nothing second hand, nothing from a newspaper, everything from an official party source as much as possible. Some I could find no basis for, and I highlighted these in bold. The only thing I quoted which did not come from an official party source was the parliamentary voting record. I explained all this to the police in some detail – also that on several occasions I had simply sent people the link to the official party manifesto.

The police explained that I hadn’t broken any law – there was no charge to answer and it really wasn’t a police matter.

They asked me to ‘take it down’ but I said I couldn’t do that as it had already been retweeted and appropriated, copied, many times and I no longer had any control of it (I had to explain to one of the officers what Twitter was and how it worked).

As the police were quite clear to Abberton – if not to the UKIP councillor – in tweeting that poster, he had not broken the law in any way. Just because you are campaigning, however, wouldn’t make it right to send personal abuse on Twitter, such as UKIP supporters sent to Charlie Bloom after he confronted Nigel Farage on Question Time last week.
Charlie Bloom confronts Nigel Farage on BBC Question Time
But, there is no indication that Michael Abberton, the blogger who tweeted this poster “10 Reasons” about UKIP’s policies, was sending personal abuse to anyone: a Cambridgeshire UKIP councillor just objected to his political tweeting and rang the police to tell them to do something.

The Cambridgeshire police say:

“A Ukip councillor came across a tweet which he took exception to. The name of the person on the tweet was identified and that individual was spoken to. We looked at this for offences and there was nothing we could actually identify that required police intervention. Clearly, the councillor was unhappy about the tweets. If every political person was unhappy about what somebody else said about their views, we would have no politics.”

Leaves the question open: why did the police pay a visit? If there was nothing that required police intervention, why wasn’t the UKIP councillor told that? And which councillor was it?

Was it Peter Ashcroft, Paul Bullen, Simon Bywater, Paul Clapp, Daniel Divine, Gordon Gillick, Roger Henson, Alan Lay, Peter Reeve, Sandra Rylance, or Michael Tew? Which of them didn’t like this poster or the blogger who was tweeting it so much that they had the police sent round? And why did the police go?

Update: The chief constable for Cambridgeshire police, Simon Parr, has admitted the police should not have become involved: he has asked for an internal review into the incident.

“I believe in this instance police attendance was not required and I have asked for our approach to this sort of incident to be reviewed to ensure we do not get involved unless there is clear evidence that an offence may have been committed.”

Michael Abberton writes:

I’d like to be absolutely clear – the police officers were extremely professional and polite and I couldn’t fault their behaviour in any way. But it wasn’t until after they left that I questioned why they had visited me in the first place. A complaint had been made but with no legal basis. Not a police matter. So why did they come to my home in the middle of a Saturday afternoon? Also, seeing as my profile doesn’t have my location – how did they know my address, or even the town I live in?

About fifteen minutes after they left I received a threatening tweet from a party member I had had an exchange with earlier in the day. Though appearing to be no more than a party supporter, he seemed to know that the police had been involved. I copied the tweet and sent it to the police.

David Coburn lives in Edinburgh?In closer-to-home news, David Coburn, London businessman, who was selected by Nigel Farage to be the UKIP candidate for Scotland in the Euro elections, is claiming to have moved to Edinburgh. When asked on Twitter when he moved to Edinburgh (he was UKIP’s London Regional Chair for many years), he refused to answer except by tweeting poll results from the end of April.

European Elections Voting counts: and we can all hope that on 23rd May, David Coburn catches a plane back to London, rather than joining his team in Brussels.

As for the UKIP Cambridgeshire politician who wanted to silence the claims made in that anti-UKIP poster: have you heard of the Streisand effect?

About these ads

17 Comments

Filed under Elections, Politics, Scottish Politics

17 responses to “UKIP: Against free speech

  1. stewart

    the only people who against free speech and true democrasy is you scottish far left morons and those fake anti fascist uaf real fascists who stalk nigel farage around like a bunch of boko haram paedos with threats of violence against him and his ukip supporters…stewart from lonon

  2. Michael Abberton should fight this one. The pigs were not being “extremely professional” and some people would have been intimidated into relinquishing their freedom of speech. Seems like politicisation of the police.

    • I agree. Assuming still that we have the whole story – that Michael Abberton had not been tweeting anything but attacks on UKIP’s politics and policies, nothing personal – then the police should have told the UKIP councillor that they couldn’t and wouldn’t do as he’d requested. The two officers who went are only to blame for not questioning inappropriate orders: someone made the decision to do what a councillor requested, and harass someone for posting political material. That should send up a huge red flag – if the police go along with a councillor’s inappropriate and unlawful requests in this instance, what have they done in the past?

  3. Pingback: No free speech about UKIP in Britain? | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Janice Trivett

    When free speech is reduced to smearing one’s political opponents and spreading misinformation in such a nasty way, I am not at all surprised that a UKIP member gets upset. I am not a fan if UKIP but when I see how reductive UK politics has become to spreading childish posters likw this, then I really do despair about where UK politics is going.

    • When free speech is reduced to smearing one’s political opponents and spreading misinformation in such a nasty way

      Neither of which Michael Abberton did. He published a version of a poster that was already circulating which fact-checked/sourced the statements made. It is not “smearing” to cite what your political opponents have said. Nor can Abberton be remotely accused of “spreading misinformation”.

      I am not a fan if UKIP

      but you don’t bother to fact-check baseless smears against their political opponents, just repeat them?

      It is a smear to accuse Michael Abberton of “spreading misinformation”. it is childish to complain that UKIP have in fact said and done the things they are accused of. The reported high polling of UKIP – surely the most bigoted and idiotic party ever to hit “mainstream” politics – is absolutely a cause for despair. Combating their nasty silliness is not.

      • Janice Trivett

        Combating nasty silliness with more nasty silliness is what I am talking about. Petty tit for tat rubbish like this has poisoned UK politics.

        • I can only conclude you haven’t read the blog post and are commenting randomly without having an idea what you’re talking about, Janice.

          Here’s what happened, just in case you’re interested.

          1. Various Ukip politicians and donors advocated various nasty and silly policies.
          2. Someone unknown summarised some of those nasty, silly policies into a sharable jpg.
          3. Michael Abberton then fact-checked the jpg, and reposted it, confirming point 1.

          The only nasty silliness so far is Ukip’s, Janice: the widespread support for nasty, silly policies.

          4. A Ukip councillor takes offense at having it made clear what a nasty, silly party he belongs to, and calls the police.

          5. The police, for some unknown reason, decide rather than to point out patiently to the councillor that there is nothing they can legitimately do against someone broadcasting Ukip’s nasty, silly policies, go round to have a chat with Michael Abberton.

          So far, nasty silly Ukip councillor, and let’s-hope-silly rather than nasty police.

          6. Ukip’s nasty silly action against a blogger who had done nothing wrong, and the police cooperation with Ukip, is publicly exposed.

          So far, the only petty nasty silliness is all on Ukip’s side (with a side-order of foolishness from the police). Combating it, you have people exposing Ukip’s nasty silliness.

          Sending the police round against someone who’s made a political statement against your party, isn’t “petty” and it’s not “tit for tat” – it’s poisoning the well of British justice as well as British politics.

          You claim not to be a Ukip supporter? I think you’re lying.

          • Janice Trivett

            I cant read your post properly but having seen your last comment does not encourage me in any way to believe that you have anything worth listening too.

          • Ah , so you were in fact commenting randomly in defence of UKIP without caring what they’d done. Thanks for clarifying!

          • Janice Trivett

            Does this mean I won’t get my Brownie badge for hating the ‘evil’ UKIP? Would it help if I write ‘UKIP are inhuman bastards’ 100 times on the blackboard, Miss?

          • I’m so sorry, I hadn’t realised you were under 11.
            This isn’t a blog really meant for minor children.

          • Janice Trivett

            No need to apologise. I’m sure the Daily Mail and Tory voters appreciate your efforts. Such a pity that UKIP will be the ones who will benefit the most from this media led witch hunt, though. Well done. UKIP will do well in the upcoming elections thanks to you.

          • I’m sure you hope so, but I’m just as sure you’re wrong.

          • Janice Trivett

            Its worth remembering something Ghandi said -

            “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you. Then you win.”

          • Who is Ghandi?

            If it’s a classic misspelling of Mohandas K. Gandhi, who was a strong campaigner against racism and for non-violence and justice all his life, it would certainly be ironic to cite his comment about the victory of non-violent resistance about the ugly racism and bigotry of UKIP.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s