Labour MP Declares Free Speech Does Not Include Freedom to ‘Generally Offend’

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Labour’s shadow government minister for legal aid, Karl Turner MP, has said that freedom of speech does not include the freedom to “generally offend.”

Turner, a self-proclaimed “#LeftyLawyer”, issued his remarkable statement in response to Brexit campaigner turned conservative commentator Darren Grimes defending himself against London police investigating him over an interview in which one of his guests said something offensive.

“Freedom of speech Darren doesn’t afford people the freedom to make racist remarks or generally offend,” the politician declared in a now-deleted tweet, adding: “I shall say nothing further given that you say [the Metropolitan Police] are investigating a complaint.”

The backlash against the lawyer MP was swift and extensive, ranging from members of the public to Members of Parliament.

“Freedom of speech *precisely* involves the freedom to offend. This is the whole point, from Charlie Hebdo to Voltaire to Rushdie,” responded Simon Clarke, the Conservative MP for Middlesborough South and East Cleveland.

“Of course everyone has the right to freedom of expression, Simon. But that doesn’t mean freedom from the consequences from what they have said,” Turner shot back — somewhat alarmingly, given the context of Clarke’s reference to the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

“As I understand it, the Police are investigating complaints. And it is right that they should investigate racist behaviour,” Turner insisted.

The Labour MP spent much of the day issuing similar, effectively copy-and-pasting similar responses to multiple accounts, as more and more people including the (in)famously forthright Ricky Gervais weighed in on the controversy — but had little success.

“My great-grandfather had the right to freedom of expression. That he was shot by the government for using it is neither her[e] nor there, apparently,” remarked college lecturer Yuan Yi Zhu acidly, in response to Turner’s claim that freedom of expression “doesn’t mean freedom from the consequences” of exercising it.

The Labour MP did seem to row back on his original position somewhat after deleting his original tweet: “With Freedom of Speech comes the right to be offensive,” he conceded.

“But it DOES NOT bring with it the right to commit criminal offences,” he added — rendering his concession meaningless if not nonsensical, given the alleged “criminal offences” in question involve broadcasting illegal speech.

It is also questionable whether freedom of speech in Britain, such as it is in Britain, really does include “the right to be offensive”, given people such as YouTube comic Markus ‘Count Dankula’ Meechan have indeed been convicted for causing “gross offence”.

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