IF YOU want to ensure a letter is published in our Forum pages, can I recommend that you give me a piece of your mind? Take issue with these ramblings, and you can pretty much guarantee pride of place.
Every MP is offered a column in The Press. If their views are at complete odds with mine as publisher, so what? That’s free speech for you. Within good taste and the law, everyone gets a go.
Amongst last week’s ‘War Of Words’ when Labour activists were busy smearing Independent candidates Paul Halloran and Aleks Lukic, a blogger called me ‘far right’. Wow, you’ve really arrived when you earn the ‘far right’ epithet.
It matters not that my views would be close to traditional Labour with a dash of Conservative common sense. The trouble is, this job involves exposing the political corruption and criminal activities that too often hide behind the flag of Islam – which to the haters qualifies as ‘far right’.
These wild labels become more meaningless by the week and actually say more about the people using them than their targets (and yes, I know I liberally use ‘far left’. Put that down to me being a tad provocative).
Alexander Ascough, the Labour and Momentum flag-waver involved in last week’s spat likes to excitedly refer to me on social media as ‘the publisher of Tommy Robinson’s book!’ as if that automatically dresses me up as Adolf.
Based on Ascough’s logic the boss of Random House Publishing should have shared a fatwa with Salman Rushdie over his Satanic Verses, but of course there’s no logic involved here, just extremist hate.
And yes I did publish Tommy Robinson’s autobiography. Let me explain, because the reason has never been more important.
Four years ago I got a phone call from a CofE vicar who had ministered locally and had read my book, The Islamic Republic of Dewsbury. He was doing pastoral work in prisons and met a young man on hunger strike, whose story he thought I should hear.
‘Who?’ I asked. ‘Tommy Robinson’ he replied.
‘That far right (sic) rabble-rousing idiot who nearly got Dewsbury town centre blown up in 2012?’ I exasperated.
‘So you’re just like all the rest,’ he said. Ouch.
I agreed to meet Robinson and listen to his story which was frankly unbelievable, describing a country I didn’t think I lived in. This was Soviet Russia, Communist China, or an exaggerated spy novel. I told him I needed to check out a few things.
To this day I’ve not been able to contradict a single thing Robinson said. Illegal arrests, spurious charges and court cases – mostly thrown out or dropped – blackmail, intimidation, harassment not just of him but his family. It was police state stuff, culminating in a blackmail bid by Scotland Yard’s Metropolitan Intelligence Bureau for him to be their man inside Britain’s far right (Robinson left the EDL in 2013 to work with a Muslim-led think tank, Quilliam).
He told them he wasn’t far right, he just had a problem with radical Islam and grooming gangs and that he left the EDL because he couldn’t keep the extremists (and police infiltrators) out.
I’m a journalist. I like to think I/we hold truth to power without fear or favour. This was a compelling story whatever you think of Tommy Robinson and it was clear that people were only hearing one side of a pretty nasty story.
I agreed to help him with his book and find a publisher. He laughed. ‘No one will touch me – toxic Tommy’. And he was right, so I published it. It’s no secret, but it’s not my story either, it’s his. I’m not trying to flog copies for him through this newspaper.
But if you read Amazon’s reviews of ‘Tommy Robinson Enemy of the State’, you’ll see a raft of 1-star outpourings of hatred and scorn. Hardly any are verified purchasers – many were published before the book was even printed!
I don’t think there’s an extremist or racist word in that book. It’s one man’s side of a story and I don’t doubt much is told through his own rose-tinted prism. Given the lies, conspiracies and state attempts to silence him and put his life – and his wife and children – in jeopardy, I think we can allow him that.
For the past three years Tommy Robinson has worked as a journalist but is now banned from Facebook, Twitter, his Paypal account is frozen – and none of it with a word of explanation. None.
I don’t agree with a lot of what he says and does, just as I disagree with his political opponents’ hysterics – but this job isn’t to silence either, it’s to facilitate a platform for conflicting voices. Jaw-jaw, not war-war, to paraphrase Churchill.
But dangerously, one side of the political divide – the very illiberal left – seems terrified of discussion. Instead it demonises and tries to silence any and all opposing voices. Its exaggerations, lies and threats increase the more its dogma is challenged – and however rationally and calmly that is presented.
The people caught in a rising frenzy of hate over in Lancashire right now, where Tommy Robinson has declared as an independent MEP candidate, haven’t and won’t read his book or listen to his actual views, because it would trash the mythical, ideological monster they’ve created. It is incredibly childish and worse, dangerous.
You won’t be surprised that I consider them, the state, and tragically the BBC and most mainstream media outlets, the real enemies of free speech.
It’s not because I disagree with their views, but because you and I are increasingly not allowed ours. The far left (there I go again, can’t help myself) appear intent on shutting down free speech but in any civilised democracy, both sides of a debate, or a story, must be heard.
And anyone disagreeing with that sentiment is naturally more than welcome to tell our readers why.
AN IDEA. How about a Tour de Kirklees? Maybe a warmer-upper (or cooler-downer) for the Tour de Yorkshire?
Why? Because the TdY came past our front door on Thursday and by Wednesday night you could have eaten your tea off the freshly laid tarmac (you might have got a tractor or 40-ton HGV over your bonce, but you get the point). Put on a ‘Tour de’ cycle race and every pothole in the district gets fixed.
On second thoughts, there must be 40 or 50 blue and yellow-painted bikes festooning the village main street, most of them having been in position for a week or two in readiness. They’d be half-inched within about 20 minutes in some of our neighbourhoods.
It is great to see communities getting together – to borrow the Jo Cox epithet – to put on a party, but I confess to not warming to this ‘Tour de’ malarkey. We’re twinned with the Cote d’Azur suddenly?
Why not a more suitable moniker like ‘Trundle rahnd Tykeland’, ‘Pedal to Pontefract’ or Riding through t’Ridings’?
THE ‘local resident Darren O’Donavon’ punting the credentials of Cleckheaton’s Labour candidate Khalid Patel in his electoral leaflet, bears an uncanny resemblance to long-serving Dewsbury West Labour councillor and candidate Darren O’Donovan, don’t you think? They almost have the same names too!
I wasn’t aware Darren had moved house but I thought it a bit rich when he said: “It’s time Cleckheaton had some fresh blood coming in and putting the people of Cleckheaton first, the locals here deserve much better.” Sorry Darren, who actually runs Kirklees Council, that Cleck folk are being so badly let down by? I can only imagine the streets of Dewsbury West must be paved with gold!
IF EVER a journalist should breach the code of not revealing a source, it’s Daily Telegraph hack Steven Swinford after Theresa May sacked her Defence Minister Gavin Williamson.
He swears on his children’s lives – a very big deal – he wasn’t Swinford’s source. The journo doesn’t have to name the mole, but putting Williamson in the clear would heap pressure on the disastrous PM.