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A longstanding Lewisham councillor and ex-Conservative MP has criticised efforts to silence Anne Marie Waters at a hustings event in the borough tonight.
Ahead of this Thursday’s Lewisham East by-election, campaign group Bring Back Democracy are hosting election hustings in Catford this evening, but Labour Party candidate Janet Daby has already pulled out citing her reluctance to give the For Britain leader “the oxygen of publicity”. There are also rumours the Conservative Party candidate will follow suit and boycott the event.
But Councillor Nicholas Bennett, a local councillor for more than 40 years and Tory MP for Pembrokeshire between 1987 and 1992, defended Waters’ right to speak at the hustings and criticised attempts to close her down.
“Freedom of speech is central to our democratic process and nowhere more so than in a parliamentary election,” the former school teacher wrote on a local news website.
“If Ms Walters (sic) or any other candidate publishes or says anything which can be construed as inciting racially or religiously aggravated violence or hatred, they can be prosecuted. To refuse a platform to a legitimately nominated candidate not only creates a martyr but runs contrary to purpose of the election to enable voters to hear the views of the candidates and make their choice.”
And other Lewisham residents joined in calls to let her participate saying the people of Lewisham “had the right” to hear her speak.
Jenny Roblett said: “I believe the free people of Lewisham have the right to hear Anne Marie speak. They also should have the right not to listen. It’s THEIR choice and not for one person to decide for them just because HE doesn’t agree with her views.
“We used to have rights in this country, we used to have freedom of speech. What is the point of Liberty if we are denied the right of criticism?”
Local voters also said it was unjust to label Waters as “far-right” insisting she had many policies aside from speaking openly about Islam.
“To frame Waters as merely an ‘anti-Islam’ candidate is misleading and unfair. She is campaigning on a wide-ranging manifesto, which if you read it, you will discover to your surprise that it is not far-right,” Dave Bosworth explained.
“Islam is a set of beliefs – a theological position – a set of ideas! It is not possible to be racist towards a set of ideas! It is also OK to disagree with, criticise and even ridicule a set of ideas if you find them to be preposterous and offensive! Please try to tell the truth – it helps!”
And Cambel Mclaughlin added: “How on earth she can be asked to not speak shows you how far the poison of Islam has spread in our communities.”
A defiant Waters has said she will attend the hustings regardless but has been forced to hire private security to protect her after threats of violence and intimidation from far-left groups.
What do you think? Should she be allowed to speak? Let us know in the comments below…
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