Monthly Newsletter

Free Speech Union Opens Scottish Office

Welcome to the Free Speech Union’s monthly newsletter in which we tell you about all the things we’ve achieved in the previous month.

The launch of our Scottish office on 21st April attracted favourable attention in the Times (here and here), the Scottish Daily Express, Reclaim the Net, the Epoch Times and the Daily Sceptic. It was particularly encouraging to see the enthusiasm on display below the line after the Times ran our Scotland launch as its top Scotland story – posters welcomed the move and were keen to know where they could sign-up.

The FSU opened its Edinburgh branch due to overwhelming demand from its Scottish members who are concerned that free speech is in peril north of the border. Those concerns are well-founded. As the Epoch Times pointed out in its coverage of our launch night, over the past few years we’ve seen the authorities convict a Scottish comedian for telling a bad joke, the University of Edinburgh rename a tower honouring David Hume due to his “racist” views, and a successful children’s author (who the FSU is currently supporting) forced to retrain as a truck driver for publicly backing JK Rowling’s gender critical views. Many are also concerned by the “chilling effect” of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act; an Act which, more than a year after receiving Royal assent, has thankfully yet to be activated. But as one of the members of our newly formed Scottish Advisory Council pointed out while throwing his support behind FSU Scotland in a barnstorming Times Thunderer, as and when that legislation is finally activated it will undoubtedly “shut down discussion of vital public importance such as the conflict between sex-based women’s rights and trans rights”.

Nor are these concerns the exclusive preserve of opponents of the present SNP Government. FSU Scotland has attracted widespread, cross-party support: SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC, education policy professor Lindsay Paterson, former Scottish Conservative deputy leader Murdo Fraser MSP and award-winning poet Jenny Lindsay have all recently joined our Advisory Board, where they will sit alongside former University of Edinburgh rector Iain Macwhirter, director of the Catholic Media Office Peter Kearney and former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars.

I hosted the launch event and it included a keynote address from Jacob Mchangama, the internationally renowned free speech advocate and author of the highly acclaimed new book Free Speech: A Global History from Socrates to Social Media. We were joined by a distinguished panel and, together, we debated the importance of free speech and fielded questions from the audience. We had a great turnout, and the FSU team met with many passionate people who care deeply about protecting free speech in Scotland. There was real enthusiasm in the room for what we’re trying to do, and the overwhelming impression we came away with was that there’s a vital need for the FSU in Scotland. You can see a short YouTube video in which various members of our Scottish Advisory Council talk about why free speech is important here.

Our response to the University of Aberdeen’s no-platforming of Alex Salmond

As though to illustrate the need for FSU Scotland, the day after our launch Alex Salmond was no-platformed by the University of Aberdeen. Mr Salmond had been due to speak at the Aberdeen University Student Union Golf Club on the evening of 22nd April, but at the last minute the booking was cancelled, forcing him to give his talk in a car park outside the venue. Mr Salmond said that the reason he was no-platformed was because transrights activists at the University who disagree with his position on proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act had petitioned the Golf Club to cancel the event. This no-platforming was, he said, a “sinister attack on freedom of speech”. Mr Salmond’s analysis was subsequently confirmed when Alisa Koester, the student President of the Aberdeen University Students Association, told a newspaper: “AUSA stands in full solidarity with the trans community who raised concerns about the event. Our campus should be a safe place where all our students feel welcome.”

I wrote to the University of Aberdeen’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor George Boyne, to point out that the no-platforming of Mr Salmond was contrary to Scottish law, contrary to the University of Aberdeen’s own free speech policy and a breach of his right to freedom of expression under the European Convention on Human Rights. The letter concluded with two requests: first, that Professor Boyne ask the golf club to apologise to Mr Salmond and reschedule his talk as soon as practically possible; and second, that the university issue a statement affirming its commitment to free speech and pointing out to the student activists who no-platformed Mr Salmond that attempting to silence those with whom one disagrees is an action that has no place at any university. You can read that letter here and see the coverage it got in the Times here.

Rt Hon Lord David Frost to join the FSU’s Advisory Council

The FSU is delighted to announce that the Rt Hon Lord David Frost is joining our advisory panel. Lord Frost has been a member of the House of Lords since August 2020. From March 2021 until December 2021, he was also Minister of State at the Cabinet Office. Before that, Lord Frost was the United Kingdom’s Chief Negotiator for Exiting the European Union, led the UK’s Brexit talks with the European Union and was instrumental in negotiating a free trade agreement during the Brexit transition period. Lord Frost has also recently accepted a Senior Fellowship with the think tank Policy Exchange and has repeatedly stood up for free speech, most recently in his Telegraph column where he expressed reservations about the Online Safety Bill.

Non-crime hate incidents: an update on our recent legal success story

Two years ago, one of our members, Kevin Mills, was recorded as having committed a ‘non-crime hate incident’ (NCHI) by the police after he refused to work with a customer who threw a scalding mug of tea at him. In last month’s newsletter we reported our success in getting that NCHI permanently deleted from Kevin’s police records. But as we pointed out on Twitter at the time, it was definitely a case of one down, many more to go. That’s because police forces in England and Wales aren’t required to notify someone if an NCHI is recorded against their name. Given that close to a quarter of a million NCHIs have been recorded since 2014, it’s likely that tens of thousands of people are still unwittingly carrying one around on their records (and they can show up if an employer carries out an Enhanced Disclosure and Barring check). The FSU’s success in the case of Kevin Mills helped push the issue back into the media spotlight in April: the Spectator, Spiked, the Sun and the Express all ran pieces about NCHIs that cited the FSU’s casework and research. The good news is that off the back of that exposure we’ve recently seen an uptick in the number of people reaching out to us via our various social media channels – i.e., Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – for support and advice.

Nottingham holds out on Sewell degree

Nottingham University is still resisting calls to reverse its decision not to award an honorary degree to former government race tsar Dr Tony Sewell, claiming Sewell’s presence would “overshadow” graduation ceremonies and upset students. We wrote to the EHRC asking them to investigate whether Nottingham’s decision was motivated by racial prejudice; 50 Tory MPs also wrote to the University, highlighting the “absurdity” of granting honorary degrees to disgraced former Malaysian PM Najib Razak and Uighur re-education camp denying ex-Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming while rescinding its offer of the same to Dr Sewell “simply because he earned the ire of a few frustrated ideologues for his widely welcomed work” on the Government’s race report.

Gillian Philip fundraiser

We’ve launched a CrowdJustice fundraiser on behalf of our member Gillian Philip, a writer of young-adult fiction whose contract was terminated after she expressed the heretical belief that biological sex is real. Her sin was adding the hashtag #IStandwithJKRowling to her Twitter account, which immediately led to demands that her publisher dump her and, needless to say, it did just that. Gillian’s contract was ended, and her agent abandoned her, just one month after the death of her husband. The effect on her was shattering. Today she works as a courier and an HGV driver to make ends meet. Please help Gillian fight for her freedom of speech by giving what you can to the crowdfunder.

FSU calls for an inquiry into Cardiff University

The FSU has been signal-boosting a petition to the Welsh Senedd, asking for an inquiry into Cardiff University’s failure to protect members of its academic staff who received death threats after they publicly queried the University’s membership of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme. We have written again to the Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff about this, querying why the University is refusing to properly investigate the bullying and harassment of these academics. We also wrote to Welsh Minister of Education Jeremy Miles MS. Please sign the petition. If it gets 10,000 signatures, it will be considered for a debate in the Senedd.

U-Turn on U-Turn on ‘conversion therapy’

In a double U-turn – a 360° U-turn? – the Government said it planned to drop its pledge to ban conversion therapy, and then announced hours later that the ban would in fact proceed but with a carve-out for gender dysphoria. We welcomed the initial announcement and were relieved when the Government made it clear that the ban wouldn’t extend to referring adolescents with gender dysphoria to therapists. You can read our response to the Government’s consultation about banning conversion therapy here. In our submission we said: “Our concern is that ‘conversion therapy’, as currently under discussion, is too vaguely defined to form the basis of a new law and such a law would inevitably have a chilling effect on free speech.”

The Online Safety Bill returns to Parliament for its second reading

The origins of the Online Safety Bill (OSB) lie in the troubling death of Molly Russell, a teenager who took her own life after viewing images of suicide and self-harm on Instagram. Theresa May’s government felt something should be done, and now, after five years, a White Paper, a consultation, a draft Bill, a joint committee of Parliamentarians, a report by that committee and a separate inquiry by the DCMS Select Committee, we’ve finally arrived at the Bill’s Second Reading in the House of Commons.

The FSU has been tracking the legislation’s progress through Parliament. You can find our briefings about the Bill here.

To coincide with the OSB’s second reading on 19th April, the FSU issued a press release which you can read in full here. It sets out the FSU’s current view, which is that although the latest iteration of the Bill makes welcome provision to protect children from illegal content on the internet, it doesn’t afford online freedom of speech and expression the robust, meaningful protections it needs.

Last month, I was invited to discuss the risks posed by the Bill for Christians in an interview with Christian Today, saying that its requirement that social media companies should remove ‘legal but harmful’ speech would “almost certainly include some posts expressing orthodox Christian beliefs, although the big social media companies need no encouragement when it comes to removing them”.

April also saw the publication of a personal essay by Dr Frederick Attenborough, the FSU’s new Communications Officer. The paper set out his concerns regarding the Bill’s proposed regulatory architecture and suggests a series of focused and limited amendments that would effectively require both Ofcom, and the online service providers it will soon be regulating, to more robustly protect and preserve online freedom of speech.

Over the next few months, we’ll be engaging with our allies in both chambers of Parliament to ensure that the final version of the Bill more adequately balances the need to protect people from harm with protecting freedom of speech.

Slap down SLAPPs

Baroness Tina Stowell, Chair of House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee, said the committee had heard “concerning evidence” about the chilling effect that SLAPPs are having on free speech. SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation and SLAPPs are heavy-handed legal actions used by wealthy individuals or companies to intimidate and deter journalists from reporting on their wrongdoing. Stowell described both costs and case numbers as “out of control” and said the committee would be “writing to the Government to encourage urgent action on this issue”. The FSU is responding to the Government’s consultation on SLAPPs, which you can find here.

The FSU’s response to a Home Office email asking staff to state their pronouns

Last month the FSU wrote to Matthew Rycroft (above), the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, to complain about a directive issued to Home Office staff. Guido Fawkes and the Times have the details of the FSU’s involvement, but the gist of the story is that staff in the Visa, Status and Information Services Department were sent a standardised format for their email signatures with the suggestion that they include their preferred gender pronouns. This ‘suggestion’ was followed by an email from a manager that stated: “In case anybody wasn’t sure, this change does affect us and so we need to alter our signatures to match the template on the email.” In the template the manager was alluding to, he had included his own name followed by “(he, him, his)”. So was this directive just a clumsily worded ‘suggestion’, or an attempt to compel employees to engage in a certain type of expression? This isn’t semantic nit-picking. It matters legally. Any attempt at compulsion would not only have breached the Equality Act 2010, but would have violated those employees’ rights to freedom of thought, conscience and free speech as stipulated in Articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In our letter to Mr Rycroft we pointed out the various laws this demand breached. The letter continued: “We trust that this directive was based on a misunderstanding by an overzealous manager and is not official Home Office policy. Indeed, we think it cannot be as you have not included your pronouns in your biography on the UK government website. However, we would ask you to affirm that no Home Office employee has been penalised for refusing to include their pronouns in their email signatures.” The Home Office responded by clarifying that it was only a ‘suggestion’ and not mandatory. You can read the FSU’s letter in full here.

Sharing the newsletter

As with all our work, this newsletter depends on the support of our members and donors, so if you’re not already a paying member please sign up today or encourage a friend to join, and help us turn the tide against cancel culture. You can share our newsletters on social media with the buttons below to help us spread the word. If someone has shared this newsletter with you and you’d like to join the FSU, you can find our website here.

Kind regards,

Toby Young

Victory! Police delete Non-Crime Hate Incident record after our intervention

Member’s ‘non-crime hate incident’ record deleted by police

We’ve succeeded in getting a ‘non-crime hate incident’ (NCHI) permanently deleted from the police record of one of our members, thanks to Harry Miller’s victory in the Court of Appeal. This is a major victory because if we can do it once, we can do it again. The member, who we are not naming, had a nonsensical NCHI recorded against him which could have barred from him working with children or vulnerable adults. We wrote to the local police force on his behalf and the record has now been removed for good.

Our member said: “Without the help of the FSU I would not have cleared this injustice. I really am so grateful.”

If you think you have an NCHI recorded against you, take a look at our FAQs on how to find out if you really do and, if so, how to get it deleted. If you are a member, our case team will be happy to assist. You can reach them on help@freespeechunion.org.

Government throws out plans to censure un-woke MPs

The Government heeded our recommendations in response to Labour MP Chris Bryant’s proposal to add “respect” to the Parliamentary Code and compel MPs to “demonstrate anti-discriminatory attitudes and behaviours through the promotion of anti-racism, inclusion and diversity”. The Government’s response to the consultation, based closely on our submission, said:

Whilst the Government does not consider it necessary to adjust the descriptors specifically in relation to Members of Parliament (or the Lords), we think it is of overarching importance to emphasise tolerance of different viewpoints and protect free debate when considering any changes.

We would not want to stifle legitimate debate on politically contentious issues which are important to our democracy – as an indirect consequence of the proposed new requirement for ‘anti-discriminatory attitudes’ or demonstrating ‘inclusion and diversity’. This could have a chilling effect on free speech on contentious and polarised political issues.

Guido Fawkes, commenting on the centrality of free speech in the Government’s response, said: “This point is something supported by the Free Speech Union, who submitted evidence as part of the consultation arguing against adding the ‘respect’ principle, which would ‘attempt to regulate’ the ‘attitudes’ of MPs, i.e., their views and opinions.”

New online regime promises era of chilling censorship

We are deeply alarmed by the Online Safety Bill, which seeks to prohibit ‘legal but harmful’ speech online. In our press release, we said: “This is an affront to democracy and we will be working closely with our allies across Parliament to help the Government improve the Bill.” Our Chief Legal Counsel Bryn Harris observed that “a government cannot protect free expression while also trying to prohibit harmful speech” in Conservative Home. Our Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs Jennifer Powers said in UnHerd that the “Online Safety Bill is being brought before Parliament with the best of intentions” but “it remains an awful Bill”.

In the Telegraph, our Advisory Council member Juliet Samuel described the Bill as “a charter for censoring the entire internet” and said:

It may be true, as the Government tells its MPs, that the worst aspects of the bill are being watered down – not least due to arguments made by a small army of free speech advocates (including the Free Speech Union, whose advisory board I serve on). But even with adjustments, the legislation is still primed to send the repressive instincts of the tech companies into overdrive.

Guido Fawkes noted that “the Bill has managed to unite Toby Young’s Free Speech Union, gender critical feminists, LGBT groups, and the churches in opposition”. And in the Spectator, I set out how we’d like to amend the Bill:

So what me and my lot have been lobbying for – so far, to no avail – is as follows. First, we’d like to see a free speech duty included in the bill whereby providers are legally obliged to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the right to freedom of expression is not unduly infringed by excessive measures taken to comply with the duties of care under the bill or the social media companies’ own terms and conditions. Second, a requirement for each provider to publish a policy setting out how it will comply with this free speech duty.

Failing this, we’d at least like the ‘have regard [for free speech]’ language to be beefed up to ‘have particular regard’.

No-platforming of Helen Joyce

The journalist Helen Joyce, author of Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality, was no-platformed by the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital after trans rights activists objected to her presence on a panel at a one-day NHS conference about the treatment of children with gender dysphoria. (You can read about that episode in the Telegraph.) We’ve written to the Chief Executive of the Hospital asking him to apologise to Dr Joyce and re-arrange for her to speak. If he responds, we’ll publish his reply beneath our letter.

Meanwhile, the FSU was one of several organisations to criticise the Government’s proposal to pass a law banning conversion therapy and, collectively, we appear to have prompted the Prime Minister to think again. (You can read our response to the consultation about the proposed ban here.) In essence, the problem with the new law is that ‘conversion therapy’ isn’t properly defined which means the ban could extend to referring children suffering from gender dysphoria to therapists – anything other than affirming their self-diagnosis, and encouraging them to undergo irreversible medical procedures, could become unlawful. After initially saying it would ditch the proposal, the Government is now saying it will press on with the ban but carve out an exception for the treatment of transgender people.

Our call for an independent inquiry into harassment of gender critical academics at Cardiff

We’ve been helping a group of academics at Cardiff who’ve been victimised and threatened by transactivists for asking the University to review its membership of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme. Cardiff has failed to take appropriate action, despite threats of violence against these academics, and has even misplaced evidence relating to the case.

We wrote to Cardiff’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Colin Riordan, and urged him to set up an independent inquiry into the University’s failure to properly investigate the matter. We also presented new evidence of continuing efforts to threaten and intimidate our members at Cardiff. In his reply, Professor Riordan rejected our call for an investigation, claiming the protests and the threats didn’t take place on campus. We have responded in detail, correcting his misunderstandings and urging him to think again. You can read that correspondence here.

Freedom of Speech Bill to be carried over into next parliamentary session

Good news about the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill we campaigned for: the Government has arranged for a Carry Over motion for the Bill on 25th April, meaning it will not be lost and instead carried over into the next parliamentary session, at which point it should become law. We were concerned that the Bill, which had its first reading in the House of Commons in May 2021, had lost momentum, but the Government is determined to see it through.

Help us challenge indoctrination in schools

Nadhim Zahawi seems to be taking woke indoctrination in schools seriously, following our success in pushing for guidance to be published on the importance of political impartiality in schools. He told the Conservative Party Conference that this was a “complaint I’m hearing more and more” and that some teachers were “keen to either shut down free speech, or to only present one side of an opinion”.

We gave evidence to the Department for Education demonstrating the extent of the problem. We’re currently looking for further examples of politically biased teaching in schools, so if you have any concerns please contact us on info@freespeechunion.org. In addition, if you have come across examples of teachers or schools invoking the concept of ‘respect’ to stifle criticism of different faiths or beliefs, or to shut down debate, please send them to us as well.

Worcester College’s apology for hosting Christian conference

We’ve written again to David Isaac, the Provost of Worcester College, Oxford, asking him to retract his apology to students after they complained about the use of College facilities by the Wilberforce Academy, a summer school run by Christian Concern. In addition, we urged him to withdraw the ban he imposed on further bookings by the Academy.

Isaac apologised last year – and announced the ban – after students accused the attendees of the three-day event of “aggressive leafleting” and other misdemeanours, but an independent investigation carried out by a charity lawyer has found no evidence to support these allegations. You can read our letter here and a report in the Telegraph about the episode here.

Our appeal to the Equality and Human Rights Commission after Nottingham withdraws honour for race report author Tony Sewell

We have lodged a complaint with the Equality and Human Rights Commission and written to Nottingham University after it withdrew its offer of an honorary degree to Tony Sewell on the basis that Dr Sewell is the subject of “political controversy”. Sewell, who chaired the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, had received criticism and abuse when the Commission published its report last year because it concluded that British society, while far from being free of racism, is not “institutionally racist”.

We identified a number of people to whom Nottingham has awarded honorary doctorates in spite of being embroiled in political controversy – for instance, the former Chinese Ambassador to Britain who dismissed reports of Uighurs being interned in prison camps in China as “fake news” – and asked whether the University discriminated against Sewell because he holds “views which, in the minds of some, black people ought not to hold”. You can read more about our complaint in the Mail on Sunday here.

Ousted from counter-extremism think tank for warning about far-left extremism

This month we’ve helped people from all walks of life – NHS staff, scientists, students, teachers – with cases ranging from people being kicked off social media for questioning trans ideology, to members losing their jobs and livelihoods for comments made outside of work. People contact us every week who never imagined they’d need our support. Help us to help them: if you can, please donate to our general fighting fund.

One FSU member we’ve been supporting is Craig McCann, formerly of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right. He wrote in an article earlier this year:

I am increasingly concerned at the rate at which the so-called ‘CVE field’ [countering violent extremism] is being infiltrated by activists describing themselves as ‘Anti-Fascists’ who advocate for committing criminal offences in furtherance of their opposition to the radical right.

The response to his piece was a whirlwind of abuse, the resignation of the think tank’s Director, and the expulsion of Dr McCann. He only found out about the expulsion from friends; nobody from the think tank bothered to contact him to notify him or offer an explanation. You can read his account of this deeply troubling case in Quillette.

Only a small proportion of our cases can ever be reported publicly, but we’ve had some important successes in recent weeks that I hope to share with you shortly.

FSU Chairman Nigel Biggar triumphs in campaign to protect Rustat memorial at Jesus College

Congratulation to our Chairman Nigel Biggar who successfully campaigned along with others to retain a seventeenth-century memorial at Jesus College, Cambridge to its benefactor Tobias Rustat, who had some financial involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. The Diocese of Ely ruled that the memorial should remain at the College and said that activists seeking the memorial’s removal had created a “false narrative” about the extent of Rustat’s involvement in slavery. You can read a great piece by Dominic Sandbrook on the Rustat affair here and an article in the Times about it by Professor Biggar here.

Join the Free Speech Union

All our work depends on the support of our members and donors, so if you’re not already a paying member please sign up today or encourage a friend to join and help us turn the tide against cancel culture.

Kind Regards,

Toby Young

The Free Speech Union at two

Last month marked two years since I launched the Free Speech Union to defend our most treasured and important right. We can’t declare victory yet, but – thanks to our members – we have won some important battles. We’ve been involved in around 1,000 cases where our members have required our assistance, and we now have a staff of 12, a roster of over 100 academics and lawyers on our advisory councils, and 9,000 paid-up members. You can join us today.

I was delighted to speak to Nigel Farage on the Talking Pints section of his GB News show, which you can watch in full here. I spoke about the attempt to cancel me in 2018, and why I started the FSU. As I said to Nigel, at that time I had no one to turn to, nobody able to offer impartial advice. I was reduced to watching helplessly as my career burned to the ground in front of me. That was one reason I set up the Free Speech Union – so people who found themselves in the position I had would not have to face the mob alone. I sat down with Peter Whittle of the New Culture Forum to discuss the FSU’s second anniversary and told him that while we continue to win tactical victories, the strategic picture does not look so good: without a redoubled effort, we will lose the war. That’s why it’s so important that you spread the word, get people you know to sign-up, and share this newsletter as widely as you can.

The judgment in the Harry Miller case, the Forstater ruling, and the forthcoming Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill are all bit steps forward in the effort to change our law and culture for the better and tip the balance in favour of freedom of speech. But so much more remains to be done, and sadly the Government, giving with one hand, is taking away with the other, as it presses on with its ill-considered Online Safety Bill. You can read our latest briefing about that Bill here.

There is a huge amount yet to be done, and we live in times that call for constant vigilance to safeguard our right to freedom of expression. The tit-for-tat escalation in censorship between Russia and the West since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has been an alarming reminder of that.

How to get a ‘non-crime hate incident’ removed from your criminal record

We’ve published some FAQs for members who are concerned that they might have a ‘non-crime hate incident’ recorded against their name and, if so, how to get it expunged from their criminal records. All NCHIs on police records were recorded under guidance that the Court of Appeal found to be unlawful in January, thanks to Harry Miller and the FSU. While the lawfulness of an individual NCHI can only be determined on the facts of the case, there is a good argument that all NCHIs issued under the unlawful guidance are themselves unlawful. In light of that, anyone who suspects they have an NCHI recorded against their name should contact us and we will do our best to help. Find out more here.

Success! Crackdown on biased teaching following the FSU’s intervention

Last month we achieved a major campaigning victory after the Government issued guidance designed to stamp out the shockingly widespread indoctrination of pupils in schools, examples of which many members have alerted us to. It is the first such guidance to be published, and Ofsted will also be issuing its own rules to help teachers understand what their legal duties are. Too often, teachers are completely unaware that they have a legal duty to treat politically contentious subjects in a balanced way.

The guidance came about after the FSU warned about the extent of activist teaching in a dossier we sent to the Department for Education last year – reported at the time in the Telegraph and Mail. We revealed countless examples of indoctrination in schools. These concerns are addressed in the guidance, which can be read in full here, although I didn’t think it went far enough. You can read my reaction to the guidance in Mail+ here.

Cardiff fails to act over campaign to silence academics, despite masses of evidence

In February we wrote to the Welsh Education Minister, Jeremy Miles, urging him to take action about the bullying of a group of academics at Cardiff University who dared question the institution’s entanglement with Stonewall’s discredited Diversity Champions scheme. (You can read about our intervention in this dispute in the Daily Mail.) We’re still awaiting his reply, but the University has again refused to take any further action. However, Shadow Education Minister Laura Jones has now written to Mr Miles and we welcome her efforts to get Cardiff to do more. We’ve called for an investigation into the University’s handling of the affair, and will keep the pressure up until our members’ rights are properly secured.

NHS transgender clinic forced to do U-turn over Black Lives Matter logo

A whistleblower and member of the FSU we’ve been supporting has prompted the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust to climb down over its proposal to adopt a new logo based on the clenched fist of the BLM movement. Our member complained that the logo was too political, prompting the BLM emblem to be replaced with a handshake icon with one black and one white hand. But the logo is the just the tip of the woke iceberg, with the transgender clinic unleashing a “bombardment” of equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives, according to our member. Among other things, staff were asked to take a webinar entitled “whiteness – a problem for our time”. You can read more about the woke takeover of the NHS Trust in the Telegraph. As I told the paper, “It seems clear that the Tavistock has been completely captured by a quasi-religious cult that requires all white members of staff to engage in bizarre self-flagellation rituals. The temptation is to laugh, until you remember that these are senior NHS employees who work with vulnerable children.”

You must affirm EDI to get the job, Durham tells applicants

We’ve written to Professor Karen O’Brien, the new Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, objecting to a requirement that those applying for the role of Assistant Professor in Durham’s International Relations department provide a statement affirming their commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion. We are concerned that requiring applicants to profess their fealty to a particular belief system could be a breach of the Equality Act 2010, as well as Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. You can read our letter here.

Case updates

Our case team continues to field dozens of requests for help every week. We’re currently assisting members who are fighting back against spurious disciplinary proceedings, upholding freedom of speech on university campuses and wrestling with censorious HR departments. Only a small proportion of our cases can ever be reported publicly, but we’ve had some important successes in recent weeks that I hope to share next time. In the meantime, please help by donating to our general fighting fund. People tell us every week that they joined up to support free speech and never imagined they’d need our support personally, only to find themselves in urgent need of our help.

Reforming the Human Rights Act to strengthen free speech

The Government is currently holding a consultation on its proposals to reform the Human Rights Act 1998. We’ve submitted our response and we would encourage you to respond to. This is an opportunity for us to push for the maintenance and strengthening of the right to freedom of expression within the UK – and if you’d like to submit your own response, we’ve created these FAQs to guide you through the process.

Our London members’ meet-up

Finally, we were delighted to host a packed event in London for our members meet-up last Tuesday and I was pleased to see so many of you there – including several members who we’ve helped over the past two years. This event was the last in our pilot scheme of regional meet-ups. We’ve been all over the UK road-testing this concept and we’ll be unveiling a programme of regional speakeasies shortly.

We can’t take any of our rights for granted – as we discovered during the pandemic – and it is only thanks to our members that we’re able to defend our most important right of all so please sign-up today.

Kind regards,

Toby Young

Police should now delete existing “non-crime hate” records

Harry Miller and Toby Young celebrate the Court of Appeal verdict

Readers will be aware of the landmark victory in the Court of Appeal won by former policeman Harry Miller – with our help – against the practice of the police recording ‘non-crime hate incidents’ (NCHIs) on people’s criminal records for perfectly lawful things they’ve said. I explained why this was such a significant case in Mail+ and interviewed Harry for an online FSU ‘Speakeasy’ last week (if you missed it, the video will be posted shortly on our YouTube channel). His victory was a major milestone in the struggle to restore freedom of speech in Britain.

But despite the judgement that the indiscriminate recording of NCHIs is a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, over a hundred thousand NCHIs remain on police databases. In many cases, they will continue to be disclosed during enhanced criminal record checks, meaning they will continue to blight people’s lives and risk them losing job opportunities or being barred from certain voluntary roles. Getting these records expunged is a top priority for the Free Speech Union and we are working to support several FSU members who have had particularly nonsensical NCHIs recorded against them. If you have had an NCHI recorded against your name and you’d like our help in getting it removed, please contact us at help@freespeechunion.org.

We’re hiring: join the campaign for free speech

If you’d like to get involved in our work, we currently have three vacancies to fill. Join our communications team as our Director of Digital Content and Marketing, or as our Communications Officer. We’re also looking for a Director of Data and Impact to help grow our membership base. We’re keen to fill the positions quickly, so will begin the interview process on a rolling basis. I’d encourage you to apply as soon as possible if you are interested.

Criminologist under investigation for warning about safety of female inmates

We have written to Professor Martin Jones, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Staffordshire University, in defence of our member Professor James Treadwell, a criminologist. He has been placed under investigation by the University after he contributed to the debate over gender self-identification and the risk it poses to female inmates in women’s prisons. His comments on Twitter prompted a complaint from trans activists.

The complaint against him made no substantive argument, as we see all too often, but simply objected to the fact that James had a different philosophical perspective to the complainants. Staffordshire should have dismissed the complaint out of hand but instead it has opened a disciplinary investigation, something that will inevitably have a chilling effect on the free speech of staff and students alike, to say nothing of the stress caused to Professor Treadwell and his family. We’ve called on the University to remind the complainants of their obligation to abide by the Staffordshire’s free speech policy, which states that students must “tolerate” opinions they disagree with even if they find them repugnant.

You can read the letter to the Vice-Chancellor on our website.

Our complaint to Edinburgh VC over Sir Geoff Palmer’s “racist gang” smear

Vandalised statue of Robert Dundas in Edinburgh

If you receive our weekly news round-up you’ll be aware of the extraordinary attack launched by Sir Geoff Palmer, Chair of Edinburgh’s Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group, on two professors at Edinburgh University, Sir Tom Devine and Jonathan Hearn. Both were described as members a “racist gang” by Sir Geoff after they criticised his simple-minded and historically ignorant approach to cleansing Edinburgh of any trace of its colonial past. An article in the Spectator by Professor Hearn questioned the Review Group’s denunciation of Henry Dundas, the 1st Viscount Melville, as a defender of slavery.

We wrote to Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Edinburgh University, calling on him to defend his colleagues from this baseless smear. In his reply to us, Professor Mathieson said he’d spoken to Sir Geoff about the matter. “I did not feel that the recent exchanges had always been conducted with he necessary respect for different perspectives and I have therefore spoken to the Chair of the Steering Group of the University’s Review, Sir Geoff Palmer, to clarify expectations under our Dignity and Respect Policy,” he wrote. Professor Mathieson said he would continue to monitor events. You can read the exchange in the ‘Blog’ section of our website here.

Acas employee investigated for speaking about harmful effects of woke racism on his interracial family

We’re supporting Acas employee Sean Corby, a member of the FSU, who has been accused of racism for posting on an internal, workplace forum criticising the negative impact of so-called anti-racist activism on interracial couples, including his own interracial family. As a result, he’s been placed under investigation and accused of making non-white colleagues feel ‘unsafe’. With our help, he was cleared of the initial complaint in October, only be told last week that the complainants have appealed this verdict and the investigation has been reopened.

I spoke to GB News about the case and told the Telegraph:

Across the Civil Service, no one is allowed to dissent from the dogma of equity, diversity and inclusion, including people of colour. Indeed, woke activists treat black intellectuals who challenge this orthodoxy with particular contempt because they regard them as race traitors.

One of Sean’s posts shared an article by our founding director and GB News host Inaya Folarin Iman – apparently, one of the things that made Sean’s colleagues feel ‘unsafe’. She wrote about this for the Telegraph:

Narrow forms of social justice activism have moved to exploit the weakness and naivety of many organisations and, under the guise of seemingly benign ‘diversity and inclusion’ policies and practices, ideas influenced by identity politics are becoming institutionalised without debate. Once implemented, it becomes very difficult for organisations to roll back from them because they have created structures and incentives that perpetuate censorious thinking.

One of the most chilling aspects of this trend is the false consensus it creates. As institutions act as thought-police for their employees, they mislead the public into thinking these issues are settled, when in fact people are merely scared to express an opposing opinion. Institutions are in danger of compromising their impartiality if they fail to recognise the biases in their assumptions.

Supporting Timothy Luckhurst over the Rod Liddle imbroglio

We have been supporting our member Timothy Luckhurst, a professor at Durham University and the head of South College, who is under investigation because he invited Rod Liddle to give an after-dinner speech at his college. The first part of the investigation concluded last week, but it is ongoing and his fate is still undecided. Among other things, we wrote to Lord Wharton, the Chair of the Office for Students, highlighting the free speech issues engaged by this case, and after receiving the letter he gave an interview to the Telegraph in which he said: “As a point of principle it is important for students to engage with views and theories with which they may not agree. A robust but tolerant sharing of views is an essential element of the whole experience of higher education.”

You can read our letter to Lord Wharton here.

Case updates, victories and crowdfunding

Most of our successes in helping our members cannot be disclosed, either because they sign non-disclosure agreements as part of the settlements they reach with their employers or because they don’t want to appear on a woke blacklist. However, we have decided to pass on the thanks we received from a member whose case was successfully concluded last week without identifying him:

The Free Speech Union were an extraordinary support throughout what was a mercifully brief nightmare. Their expert guidance helped me to address the muddled allegations put to me about my human rights work outside office hours (the subject of the complaint) without everything escalating into an expensive and drawn-out matter in an industrial tribunal.

The Free Speech Union helped my employer see that there is nothing wrong with championing the rights of people with, what some seem to regard as, the least popular personal characteristic afforded protection under equality law, i.e. men and boys.

I will be eternally grateful to them.

Sometimes, our members need to raise money in order to fight their for their rights in the courts and we continue to be amazed at the generosity of our members when asked for their help. Rosie Kay’s crowdfunder has raised nearly £30,000 at the time of writing. Social worker and former nurse Rachel Meade is currently crowdfunding for her legal challenge against Social Work England after she was sanctioned for raising concerns about reform to the Gender Recognition Act.

If you’d like to support our work you can also donate to our general fighting fund.

Right of appeal if social media content is removed

In January we published our latest briefing on the Online Safety Bill. It considers the recommendations made in the report of the parliamentary Joint Committee on the Online Safety Bill. We have welcomed some of these, including the proposal that social media users who’ve had content removed unfairly should have the right to appeal to an independent ombudsman.

We’ve also endorsed the proposal that protections for “content of democratic importance” should be extended beyond journalists and politicians to the general public. Otherwise we would be in the odd position of holding ordinary members of the public with very small social media audiences to higher standards that journalists and MPs with hundreds of thousands of followers.

However, our fundamental concern about the legislation remain: social media platforms should only be legally obliged to remove content that is unlawful, not legal content that, according to some vague, nebulous definition is deemed to be harmful. Requiring them to remove so-called “legal but harmful” content opens up almost limitless scope for censorship.

You can read our briefing here.

Liberate academics from “Liberating the Curriculum”

Before Christmas we were alerted to UCL’s “Liberating the Curriculum” policy, a scheme designed to reduce the number of “dead white (able-bodied European) men” in university courses. Under the policy, anyone applying for a grade 8 job at the University must demonstrate their commitment to removing “dead white able-bodied European men” from reading lists, “check their privilege” and “acknowledge the prejudice baked into their field”.

We wrote to UCL’s Vice-Chancellor, Dr Michael Spence, to raise our serious concerns about the effect this policy would have on academic freedom at UCL. We also warned the University that the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, which is on course to become law later this year, would likely make the obligatory components of the Liberating the Curriculum policy unlawful. You can read our letter and Dr Spence’s reply here.

Videos and podcasts

You can watch our ‘in-depth’ about the Equality Act with Exeter lecturer Dr Wanjiru Njoya, Professor James Allan, Dr Anna Loutfi and me here. And you can listen to me being interviewed by Brendan O’Neill about the second anniversary of the FSU here.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this monthly newsletter. Every victory is made possible because of the support of our members, and we have ambitious plans for the year ahead. Memberships start at just £2.49 a month, so please help us to carry on the fight by becoming a member and by spreading the word to friends and family, and sharing this newsletter on social media. Click here to sign up today.

Kind regards,

Toby Young

Victory! Jeremy Sleath wins his case but more work needs to be done to protect employees’ rights

We are delighted that FSU member and train conductor Jeremy Sleath – sacked by West Midlands Trains for saying he didn’t want to live in an “alcohol-free caliphate” – has won his claim for unfair dismissal. The victory was reported in the Daily Mail. In welcome comments, the judge warned employers against grilling employees about private views irrelevant to their job.

Our Chief Legal Counsel Dr Bryn Harris said:

The dismissal was unfair because, among other things, the decision-maker took into account the irrelevant (and bizarre) matter of whether or not Jeremy would go on holiday in Dubai.

The decision-maker erred (as employers often do) by assuming that Jeremy’s views on all sorts of things were his employer’s concern. They were not. Those views didn’t go to the employment relationship, weren’t for the employer to judge, and Jeremy was free to express them.

Prudent employers will take heed. They do not have free rein to investigate and judge their employees’ beliefs in making disciplinary decisions.

Thanks to our members and supporters we raised a remarkable £22,000 to fight Jeremy’s case. But his case is the tip of the iceberg. Each month our case team receives dozens of requests for help from employees under fire for using their lawful right to free speech. You can donate to our general fighting fund here. Donations will be used to help us fight legal battles on behalf of our members, and for free speech more generally.

While we’re pleased to have helped Jeremy win this case, the judgment was not a landmark victory for the principle of free speech: it showed instead that substantial legal changes are needed to protect employees’ right to free expression outside of office hours.

Cambridge college forced to backdown over racist racism guidance

We’ve forced Downing College, Cambridge to revise guidance it issued encouraging students to report academics for “micro-aggressions”. Among other objectionable things, the policy said that white people could not be victims of racism. This guidance is remarkably similar to the university-wide guidance Cambridge introduced earlier this year and then withdrew after we and others objected. We wrote to Alan Bookbinder, Master of Downing College, raising our concerns about the chilling effect of this policy, and warning that the guidance could be unlawful. We urged Mr Bookbinder to revise the policy or else we would have to take legal action. You can read our letter here.

Following our intervention, the most pernicious aspects of the policy have been removed. As I told the Telegraph, “The College shouldn’t be encouraging students to complain to the authorities just because someone says something they find offensive, provided it’s not unlawful.”

We will continue to be vigilant about individual Cambridge colleges reheating policies like this that have been withdrawn at the university level because of their questionable legality.

Debate takes place at Sussex University about the victimisation of Kathleen Stock

Congratulations to Liberate the Debate and the Free Speech Champions for organising a ‘Free Speech Symposium’ at the University of Sussex, where Professor Kathleen Stock taught until very recently. The event, organised in response to Stock’s treatment, brought together students and academics to discuss why academic freedom matters, what students can do to defend it and how the pressure to self-censor manifests itself in campus life.

Speakers included Professor Dennis Hayes of Academics for Academic Freedom, Dr Arif Ahmed of Cambridge University (both on our Advisory council), Raquel Rosario-Sanchez, the PhD candidate who is currently suing Bristol University for enabling bullying and harassment of her by trans activists, and Sophie Watson, National Organiser of the Free Speech Champions’ University Free Speech Network. The event was well-attended by Sussex students and others who travelled from Sheffield, Warwick, Cambridge and London to take part. All left with a resolve to persuade others that academic freedom and freedom of speech are fundamental to the purpose of the university.

Are the days of ‘non-crime hate incidents’ numbered?

An interesting ruling by the European Court of Human Rights has set a promising precedent for free speech cases where the state has overstepped the mark and left an individual feeling unable to exercise their right to free speech.

It’s worth reading this article by Andrew Tettenborn of our Legal Advisory Council in full, but the short version is that Strasbourg ruled the arrest of Rita Pal, an ex-NHS psychiatrist, for harassment after she took part in a heated email exchange with a barrister and ex-journalist had a chilling effect on her right to freedom of speech, even though the charges were ultimately dropped.

As Professor Tettenborn explains:

She then went to Strasbourg, saying that even though the actual charges had been dropped, her arrest itself had had a chilling effect on her freedom of speech. Here she succeeded. In the absence of clear evidence that the Met had thought seriously about protecting Pal’s freedom of speech, they had no business arresting her in such a way as would clearly discourage her from exercising her speech rights.

We think this will have interesting implications for the ongoing struggle against the recording of ‘non-crime hate incidents’ on people’s criminal records by the police for saying things that are completely lawful.

The House of Lords debated NCHIs recently and the consensus was that they should not appear on people’s criminal records. This Strasbourg ruling, the growing parliamentary scrutiny, and, of course, Harry Miller’s ongoing case, are all reasons to be optimistic.

New Zealand FSU backs academic facing expulsion from Royal Academy for defending science

The Royal Academy of New Zealand is investigating its member Professor Garth Cooper because he objected to a proposal from a government working group that the Maori religion and Western science should be given equal weight in the New Zealand curriculum, with the two being presented alongside each other as equally valid ways of understanding the world.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland apologised for the “hurt and dismay” Professor Cooper’s words had supposedly caused. Complaints to the Royal Academy followed and – incredibly – a panel has been convened to investigate with a view to expelling Professor Cooper, a distinguished biochemist. Our New Zealand affiliate is vigorously defending him.

If you’re a scholar in the sciences or the humanities, you can help by emailing Paul Atkins, the Chief Executive of the Paul Hunter, at paul.atkins@royalsociety.org.nz. Letters from professors and members of learned societies would be particularly effective. As I wrote in the Spectator recently in a piece about this case, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of intellectual intolerance is for believers in free speech to do nothing.”

We’re hiring!

There is currently a great opportunity to come and work for the Free Speech Union. We’re looking for a full-time Events and Operations Officer to help with our roster of events and to provide general administrative support to our friendly staff. Applications close on 14 December 2021, but we may appoint before then.

More details are available here. Please do forward the advert if you know somebody who would be a good fit for the role and is passionate about free speech.

Lessons in Courage: How I Fought Back Against Cancel Culture by Nick Buckley MBE

One of the best victories we won in our first year was the case of Nick Buckley MBE, the charity boss fired by his own charity for criticising the Marxist ideology behind the Black Lives Matter organisation. We linked him up with a top lawyer and he was reinstated almost immediately.

He’s now published a book, Lessons in Courage: How I Fought Back Against Cancel Culture and Won, about his experiences. It sold out on its first day but is currently available from Amazon.

He also spoke to Peter Whittle of the New Culture Forum about his brush with cancel culture. You can watch the interview here.

Welcome to the Woke Trials by Julie Burchill

Quentin Letts has praised Julie Burchill for “giving the woke a whacking” in her new book, Welcome to the Woke Trials. We found Julie a new publisher for the book last year after her contract was cancelled by Little, Brown – and we made sure she was paid in full. You can buy her book here.

Fighting back against cancel culture

In October we hosted a panel at the Battle of Ideas festival with five people who’d fought back against cancel culture: Harry Miller, Lisa Keogh, Gillian Philip, Sam Baylis and Nick Buckley. You can watch that discussion on YouTube. Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Contrarian of the Year

I was delighted to win the 2021 Contrarian Prize last month in recognition of the work done by the Free Speech Union. As I wrote in my Spectator column about the award:

I was enormously grateful, having never won such a prize before. It was in recognition of the work I’ve done in helping to establish the Free Speech Union and I accepted it on behalf of the staff and the directors, as well as all the people who’ve been good enough to support the organisation.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this monthly newsletter. We’re proud of the work we do, and we think our work is important. Your support is also vital, and memberships start at just £2.49 a month, so please help us to carry on this fight by becoming a member and by spreading the word to friends and family, and sharing this newsletter on social media. Click here to sign up today.

Kind regards,

Toby Young

Quangos punish employees who dissent from woke ideology

The Mail on Sunday ran two stories yesterday based on a letter we’ve written to Liz Truss in her capacity as Minister for Women and Equalities. In the letter, we’ve asked her to do something about the aggressive promotion of social justice ideology in quangos and other state bodies, and the punishment of employees who push back, particularly those unwise enough to make jokes about it. The Government has been reasonably good at curbing the worst excesses of woke gobbledegook in Whitehall, but has done nothing about it in these arms-length bodies, according to several Free Speech Union members who have reached out to us for help. One case we’ve highlighted involves a National Highways official and member of the FSU who has been gagged by his employer for daring to suggest that maintaining the roads mattered more than promoting World Hijab Day. You can read the articles in the Mail on Sunday here and here.

FSU hands dossier to Department for Education about politically biased teaching in schools

The FSU has written to Nadhim Zahawi, the Secretary of State for Education, and handed a dossier to the Department for Education documenting numerous examples of politically biased teaching in schools. The dossier, which is based on information passed to us by our members, names 15 different schools where children are being taught a variety of politically contentious things, from the claim that all white people are privileged to the assertion that the police are systemically racist. We shared the dossier with the Sunday Telegraph, who ran a story on it yesterday, and MailOnline then followed up with more details.

We have decided not to publish the letter or the dossier on our website to protect the identities of our members and we were careful to secure their permission before they or their children’s schools were named in the articles. But here is an extract from the letter I wrote to Nadhim Zahawi, suggesting some things the Department could do to stop schools and teachers ignoring their legal duty not to politically indoctrinate children. To put these comments in context, you should know that the Department is preparing to issue new guidance next year about the need for schools to be impartial when teaching children about politically contentious subjects.

First, could I urge you to add ‘free speech’ to the list of British values that the Department asks English schools to promote in the guidance it issued in 2014? This, I believe, would be a useful reminder to teachers and schools that there are a range of legitimate points of view when it comes to most contested political issues and they should not promote one particular set of views and denigrate all the others but, rather, encourage children to debate different viewpoints and make up their own minds. In too many schools, children are being taught what to think about contentious political issues but not how to think about them.

Second, I think the new guidance should contain a section about what parents can do if they are concerned that teachers and schools are not complying with the guidance or, indeed, not complying with the law forbidding the promotion of partisan political views. One thing that is clear from talking to the parents who have contacted the FSU is that they are at a loss as to what to do about the political indoctrination of their children. Should they complain to the headteacher? The school’s governing body? The board of directors if the school is part of a multi-academy trust? Ofsted? The Department? The ESFA? Often, they have complained to one of these bodies, only to be told that they should complain to another, whereupon they have been sent round the houses, only to end up back where they started. If your guidance is to be taken seriously by teachers and schools and reassure parents concerned about this issue, you need to put a clear enforcement mechanism in place, much like the new Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill does. In the absence of that, the problem is bound to persist.

Student leaks bizarre list of words banned at Aston University

We were contacted by a student at Aston University who was concerned about a guide given to all first year sociology students that contained a list of banned words that students are forbidden to use. It included such supposedly problematic terms as “mankind”, “native”, “British” and “mentally ill” – and the guide said that other terms were likely to be added. Tellingly, the student did not want to be identified and wrote to us anonymously.

The guide also made clear that issues like race were only to be viewed through a fixed ideological lens, and defined “black” people as “people who experience structural and institutional discrimination”. We wrote to the Vice-Chancellor reminding him of Aston’s duty to protect freedom of speech, a duty universities should treat seriously given that the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, which we campaigned for, is likely to enter the statute book next year. We urged the Vice-Chancellor to withdraw the guide and provide an assurance that no students would be disciplined for using the words it proscribed.

Our letter to Aston University was reported in the Times. The story was also reported in the Daily Mail and by Breitbart.

Survivors of cancel culture speak out at Battle of Ideas

The FSU was out in force at the Battle of Ideas festival. Our panel discussion featured five people who’d been cancelled but fought back with our help. They told their stories to a room packed full of people who’d had enough of the pervading culture of fear and censorship.

A warm welcome to all of our new members who signed-up on the day.

We also had a stall at the inaugural conference of the LGB Alliance last month. A small demonstration by trans rights activists held a demonstration outside because the LGB Alliance is thought to be heretical for refusing to include trans people within the umbrella of the gay and lesbian rights movement. Its work has been backed by the Prime Minister.

We will be attending the SDP conference on 6 November and look forward to speaking with our members and supporters there.

Welcome to the Woke Trials previewed by the Mail on Sunday

Julie Burchill’s new book – Welcome to the Woke Trials – has been serialised in the Mail on Sunday. The book was cancelled in December last year by publisher Little, Brown because of tweets Julie had posted during a spat with Ash Sarkar. But thanks to our intervention and the help of a crack pro bono lawyer on our Legal Advisory Council, Julie was paid her entire advance in full and the rights to the book were returned to her. We then found her another publisher in the form of Paul du Quenoy at Academica Press. “I’ve been upsetting bourgeoise bed-wetters since I was 17 – now I’m 61 and nothing has changed,” Julie said. “Last time I checked, that wasn’t against the law. I am indebted to the Free Speech Union for stepping in to protect my rights.” (Ash Sarkar meanwhile appears to have belatedly acknowledged the existence of cancel culture after videos featuring her were taken down by YouTube.)

The book can be ordered here.

Case updates

Last year we helped Manx Radio presenter Stu Peters after he was suspended for challenging the concept of “white privilege” in a discussion with a phone-in caller. We wrote to the Isle of Man’s Communications Commission to defend his right to free speech and the regulator found in his favour. Last month he was elected to the House of Keys for the Middle constituency – and he’s noted his support for and membership of the Free Speech Union in his parliamentary profile. Congratulations Stu.

We helped Canadian student journalist Jonathan Bradley after he was fired for his views on LGBT issues and filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The human rights complaint has now been settled to mutual satisfaction with a letter of regret.

Our support for Father David Palmer, who has now taken up his post as Chaplain at Nottingham University after initially being blocked by university authorities, has been noted by the National Catholic Register.

The vast majority of our case work never reaches the public domain and cannot be discussed. Suffice to say we’ve won some remarkable victories recently thanks to the generosity of our members and donors. You can donate to our fighting fund here.

A reminder that if you need support you can contact our dedicated case team here.

Our offer to defend Dr Priyamvada Gopal after Home Office cancel her talk

Cambridge academic Dr Priyamvada Gopal had an invitation to speak to civil servants at the Home Office rescinded after Guido Fawkes drew attention to the fact that she’d been extremely rude about Priti Patel on Twitter. After she complained about her right to free speech being breached, we offered to support her. Dr Gopal has not taken up our offer, but we’ve welcomed her acknowledgement that the free speech crisis is real and not “manufactured”, as she had previously claimed.

Help Lisa Keogh defend the right to question trans ideology

Our member Lisa Keogh was investigated for two months by Abertay University because she said only “women have vaginas”. This was deemed to be transphobic by other students, and the last months of her law degree were overshadowed by an extremely stressful investigation and the threat of her being expelled. Even though she was completely exonerated, the process was the punishment, as many of our members have remarked before. Lisa is now mounting a legal battle against Abertay, arguing that the University discriminated against her for her philosophical beliefs and breached the Equality Act. We think students and staff should be free to question prevailing transgender ideology without having to face lengthy investigations and if you agree you can donate to Lisa’s crowdfunder here.

Our protest after students made to “acknowledge personal guilt” for “unconscious bias”

Last week we wrote to Professor Sally Mapstone, the Vice-Chancellor of St Andrews University, about the compulsory diversity training that all new students are made to sit. Freshers have to provide the “correct” answers to blatantly biased quiz questions such as “Acknowledging your personal guilt is a useful starting point in overcoming unconscious bias”. We warned the Vice-Chancellor that this test amounted to compelled speech, which is prohibited by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. You can read our letter to Professor Mapstone here.

Kathleen Stock resigns – but radical trans rights activists cannot be allowed to triumph

Weekly newsletter subscribers will have seen the sad news that Professor Kathleen Stock has resigned her post at Sussex University following a prolonged campaign of intimidation and abuse. We wrote to the Vice-Chancellor of Sussex University calling on him to defend Professor Stock and her rights to free speech and academic freedom. You can read our letter here. The University has offered several supportive statements to Stock throughout, but given the hostility she faced from trans activists she felt unable to return to campus. She had been advised that she might need bodyguards.

During this time her views have been misrepresented and she even had to seek a correction from the BBC (which was granted): if you want to know what she really thinks, listen to her speaking with me back in July about free speech, sex, gender and trans.

I spoke to Josephine Bartosch of the Critic about the failure of the University and College Union to defend Stock, and the reluctance of other unions to defend their members who’ve said something that doesn’t comply with the prevailing orthodoxy. I told her: “One of the original purposes of trade unions in the 19th century was to defend the speech rights of workers so they could criticise their bosses without being fired. Unfortunately, the vast majority of unions have lost sight of that in the past 25 years, with the UCU being the most egregious example. I would urge any academic concerned about their intellectual freedom to join the Free Speech Union instead. It’s much cheaper and we will actually stand up for the speech rights of our members.”

To that end, if you’re a working academic we’ve put a special offer in place whereby if you join you can claim a £10 rebate. To be eligible, you have to join for the full annual amount of £49.95 and select ‘Academic’ in the drop-down menu asking what profession you’re in. Offer ends on 20th December.

Comedy Unleashed: you’re invited

We are delighted to be hosting two comedy nights in association with Comedy Unleashed, the home of free-thinking comedy. Join us in London on Wednesday 10 November and Wednesday 15 December, when the line-ups will include Leo Kearse, Nick Dixon, Tania Edwards, Tony Law, Dominic Frisby, Mark Dolan, Vanity Von Glow and many more. The line-ups are different on each night, so feel free to come to both! We’re about to open our comedy nights up to the public, at which point they’ll sell out quickly, so if you’d like a ticket you should book now.

Kind regards,

Signature: Toby Young

Toby Young

Charity that doxxed Batley teacher given official warning

Protestors outside Batley Grammar School

This month we can report a number of successes on multiple fronts.

Earlier this year we submitted a complaint to the Charity Commission about a charity that named the teacher who attracted complaints after showing a cartoon of Mohammed to his RE class at Batley Grammar School, thereby putting his life in danger. Following our intervention, the Commission has effectively upheld our complaint against the Purpose of Life charity, handing it an Official Warning and rebuking it for putting the teacher’s safety in serious danger, and also for taking part in political activity and campaigning. In its strongly-worded rebuke, the Commission said the Purpose of Life had engaged in misconduct, mismanagement and a breach of trust.

The Commission concluded that the charity’s actions were “likely to inflame existing tensions within the local community” and ordered the trustees to vet individuals and organisations the charity works with, including their political links. The regulator has also warned of the possibility of further action.

In a report in the Telegraph about the charity’s misconduct, I was quoted as follows:

I welcome the action the Charity Commission has taken: naming the teacher at Batley Grammar School on Twitter was an irresponsible thing to do, given that a French teacher embroiled in a similar row had been beheaded by an Islamist terrorist the year before.

Teachers should be free to discuss controversial topics without having to worry that they will be doxxed by activists who take a particular side in those controversies and their lives put in danger.

Catholic chaplain can take his post following the FSU’s intervention

Father David Palmer was blocked from taking up his post as the Catholic Chaplain at Nottingham University because of his social media posts opposing abortion and euthanasia. We wrote to the Vice-Chancellor, pointing out that refusing to recognise his appointment because of his religious beliefs was a breach of the Equality Act, and advising her that we would support Father David if he decided to take legal action. The University has now reversed its decision, and Father Palmer is in post as Chaplain. Father Palmer thanked us and the Alliance Defending Freedom for our help. The news was reported by the BBC, in the Christian Post, the Catholic News Agency, and internationally. You can read the University’s positive response to our letter here.

The FSU gives evidence to MPs on the state of free speech in higher education

We were invited to give evidence to MPs on the need for the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill. In his oral evidence to the Public Bill Committee our Chief Legal Counsel, Dr Bryn Harris, cited some of the cases where we have acted to protect the rights of students, academics and university staff. His testimony can be read in Hansard. The committee also heard from our chair, Professor Nigel Biggar CBE, and Dr Arif Ahmed MBE of our Advisory Council, as well as Professor Kathleen Stock OBE, who took part in our July Speakeasy. Their testimony can be found here.

Our letter to Bristol on behalf of human rights professor punished for criticising Sharia

Human rights expert Professor Steven Greer was subjected to a five-month-long investigation by Bristol University after a “vicious” campaign by the Islamic Society to oust him because he criticised the treatment of women under Sharia law. Although he was completely exonerated, Prof Greer’s long-running module was ditched by university bureaucrats in case it upset or “othered” Muslim students. We wrote to Professor Judith Squires, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost of Bristol University, challenging her to answer eight questions about the episode, including why the module was dropped after Professor Greer was cleared, and how the decision could possibly be consistent with Bristol’s professed commitment to academic free speech. In her reply she said that academic freedom was a “privilege” that came with “responsibilities”.

Student audience overwhelmingly rejects cancel culture at Exeter debate

Caroline Farrow

One year after we got journalist Caroline Farrow reinstated after she was no-platformed by the University of Exeter Debating Society, its members voted by 3-1 to reject cancel culture. FSU case officer Benjamin Jones returned to the society he once ran, along with Nick Buckley MBE, the charity founder who was fired by his own trustees after criticising the ideology behind Black Lives Matter and whom we helped to get reinstated. They proposed the motion “this house regrets the rise of cancel culture” and Nick spoke powerfully about his own experience of surviving cancel culture. They won 75% of the final vote, from an audience of c. 220 students. It is a heartening sign that free speech is not a lost cause among today’s students.

Three wins for FSU members

The vast majority of our case work cannot be made public, either to protect the member in question, or for legal reasons. But we can share some examples of victories in these recent cases.

  • Last month we successfully helped an academic who had been fired for a social media post to secure a financial settlement from their former employer.
  • We’ve been providing advice and support to an academic who criticised the excessively woke culture at their university and was facing a potential investigation as a result. With our help, the academic was able to rebuff this attempt to cancel them and the university has now backed down.
  • A vet contacted us for advice earlier this year when she faced an investigation by her professional regulator for social media posts criticising the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Having been cleared, she wrote us the following note: “All in all, I would call it a very lucky escape in the current climate. I am so very happy to have had you ready to ‘bite back’ if my case had taken another, more sinister turn which I have to say has given me great consolation and comfort in this very long interim of waiting. I will most definitely be a solid member of your amazing organisation. Many, many thanks for what you and your team do and for your admirable efforts.”

We field dozens of emails every week from members asking for our assistance. If you’d like to help our small case team fight for the rights of our members, please donate to our fighting fund. Your help can make a huge difference to the people we represent.

Government-owned company silenced employee who criticised woke “awareness days”

We came to the aid of FSU member Paul Thomas after he criticised a barrage of diversity initiatives from his employer, a government-owned infrastructure company, from World Hijab Day to Virtual Pride. He went on his employer’s internal discussion forum and asked why these events were being flagged up to employees and what their relevance was to the quango’s work. He said: “If the employer is going to push upon us political issues that have nothing to do with the nature of our work, and then provide space for comment, then it has to accept criticism as well as agreement.” One of his colleagues complained about his comments and he was banned from making any further posts for two years. We have dealt with several similar cases recently of government-owned companies and quangos subjecting employees to incessant woke propaganda, far removed from their core business, and then silencing them when they ask why this is happening. If you’re in a similar situation, you can contact our cases team for help on help@freespeechunion.org.

Top barrister goes to bat for train conductor sacked for celebrating the end of lockdown

Jeremy Sleath

Thanks to the generosity of our members and supporters, Jeremy Sleath – the train conductor fired for saying he was relieved the UK wasn’t going to become an alcohol-free caliphate after the pubs finally re-opened – had a top barrister to argue his case at his hearing last month. In just four days we raised an incredible £22,000 to fight his case – before our intervention Jeremy had been forced to represent himself in the proceedings. We’re now waiting for the judgment. Thank you to everybody who donated. Jeremy wrote to us asking to share this message of gratitude:

Many thanks to the hundreds of complete strangers, but genuinely upstanding citizens, who donated to my legal fund to fight my ridiculous dismissal from my job for saying I didn’t want to live in a Muslim caliphate or for the UK to become one.

I’ll never forget your concern, generosity, and support for free speech.

The person who gave £5,000: You are incredible whoever you are, and I hope you read this. I want to send you a Christmas present every year. Or at least a card!

We have concluded the unfair dismissal tribunal, and await the verdict.

We must fight, and fight on, for freedom of speech.

Many thanks,

Jeremy Q. Sleath

Written evidence to the Law Commission and the Joint Committee on Human Rights

We have published a more extensive response to the recent proposals of the Law Commission to reform communications law, which accepted many of the proposals we made in our submission to the Commission’s consultation. While we welcome some aspects of the Commission’s recommendations, we have also warned that any new offences created would need to require robust proof of serious harm and intent to cause harm. Our full briefing, by Dr Radomir Tylecote, can be found here.

Our written evidence to the consultation by Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights on Freedom of Expression has been published on the Parliamentary website.

Worcester stresses free speech commitment after issuing apology for hosting Christian group

We wrote to David Isaac, the former Chair of Stonewall and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, now Provost of Worcester College, following his apology to “distressed” students and staff after the College hosted a group linked with Christian Concern. In his reply to us he stressed his commitment to free speech and said the College would hold a review, which would give Christian Concern the opportunity to make the case for its own defence.

Battle of Ideas

The FSU will be out in force at this year’s Battle of Ideas Festival at Church House in Westminster on the weekend of the 9th and 10th of October. We’re hosting a session, chaired by me, called “The FSU Files: How to Fight ‘Cancel Culture’ and Win” in which we’ll hear from individuals who’ve experienced first-hand what it’s like to be cancelled. But these particular individuals also have something else in common: with our help, they’ve all fought back. We will hear from them what the most effective ways are of surviving an online assassination attempt, as well as more general advice on how to persuade people that free speech is a cause worth defending.

Across the weekend, there are numerous other sessions on free speech issues that should be of interest to FSU supporters, including “Hate, Heresy and the Fight for Free Speech”, “From GB News to Ben & Jerry’s: Boycotts or Censorship?”, “Publish and Be Damned?”, “The History Wars”, “The Social Justice March through the Institutions”, “Has Coronavirus Changed Us?” and “Can Culture Survive the Culture Wars?”

I’ll be there, along with most of the FSU’s staff, encouraging others to join the FSU, so come and find us at our stall and say hello. Buy tickets here.

We’re trying to sign-up our 10,000th member by the end of the year. Join us today and help us defend your rights. Thank you for your support of the Free Speech Union.

Kind regards,

Toby Young

Sacked for celebrating the end of lockdown

Our member Jeremy Sleath urgently needs your help. In September 2020, after 17 years of loyal service, he was dismissed from his job as a Senior Conductor with West Midland Trains.

Jeremy’s offence? He had celebrated the end of lockdown by posting on his personal Facebook account: “Thank F*** our pubs open up today. We cannot let our way of life become like some sort of Muslim alcohol-free caliphate just to beat Covid-19.”

One anonymous complaint about this post was all it took to get Jeremy sacked. He decided to take West Midland Trains to the Employment Tribunal but couldn’t afford a lawyer. Nonetheless, he managed to persuade the judge at a preliminary hearing that this comments were a legitimate expression of his secular philosophical beliefs and the judge said he could go ahead and take his case to the Tribunal. (You can read about that victory in MailOnline.) But now he needs our support to continue the fight.

Jeremy is living off modest savings with no income to speak of and cannot afford a lawyer without our help. We’ve linked him up with a formidable legal team, but the estimated bill will be £15,500. The full hearing into his unfair dismissal claim is due to take place on 23 September so we have less than three weeks to raise the money. Please donate to his crowdfunder here.

Two more victories for the FSU

We’ve dealt with around 700 cases since our founding in February of last year – and won most of them. But we’re not allowed to talk about some of them, either because the other side insists on confidentiality as a condition of settling, or because the member in question doesn’t want anything about their case to come up on Google up if an employer does a background check on them – which is fair enough.

This month we’ve had two big wins. In the first of these we won a five-figure settlement from an employer on behalf of our member, and in the second we achieved an outcome that our member was delighted with. Alas, we cannot share any more detail about those cases without breaching confidentiality.

Remember, we wouldn’t be able to achieve these victories without the support of our members and donors.

Piers Morgan: another victory for free speech

We can’t claim all the credit for Piers Morgan’s recent free speech victory, but we like to think Ofcom took our arguments into account when deciding to exonerate him following the 57,000 complaints it received about his commentary on Harry and Meghan’s Oprah Winfrey interview on Good Morning Britain. Last March, shortly after Morgan had parted company with GMB, we wrote to the Chief Executive of ITV, copying in the head of Ofcom, making the case for Morgan’s defence. In our letter we warned the broadcaster that it was them, not Morgan, who could be in breach of Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code, given that he’d been forced out of his job as a presenter on GMB after expressing scepticism about the truthfulness of the Duchess of Sussex’s claims concerning her treatment by members of the Royal Family – something any journalist is perfectly entitled to do. And Ofcom agreed with us, ruling that penalising Morgan for his comments would be a “chilling restriction” on free speech.

You can read our press release about Morgan’s victory here and a piece I wrote for Mail+ about the case here.

FSU intervenes in case of Catholic priest barred from chaplaincy role for his religious beliefs

We have written to Professor Shearer West, the Vice-Chancellor and President of Nottingham University, asking her to reconsider the decision not to recognise the appointment of Father David Palmer as the University’s Catholic chaplain. Nottingham has 12 other chaplains of different faiths, all of whom are officially recognised, but the University has refused to grant the same honour to Father David because it objects to his opposition to abortion and euthanasia. Since that opposition is rooted in his Catholic faith, and religious or philosophical belief is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, we think this constitutes unlawful discrimination. Not surprisingly, our letter received some favourable coverage in the Catholic Herald, but it goes without saying that we’d go to bat for a chaplain of any faith who was being discriminated against in this way.

Free Speech Union wins plaudits for saving people’s jobs

The hanging of the “witches” in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1650. Photograph: Getty Images.

The columnist and historian Ruth Dudley Edwards has urged readers to join the FSU: “The Free Speech Union – set up to defend those threatened, silenced and even fired for challenging the destructive ideology of Wokeness – is already on the battlefield, saving people’s careers and growing strongly in numbers and strength. It protects people persecuted by the thought police and the witch-finders who scour social media in search of a few words that can be used to destroy heretics.”

If you’re in any doubt about how urgent it is to defend free speech, we recommend this piece about cancel culture by Anne Applebaum, another historian, in the Atlantic magazine. The following paragraph illustrates why the support of the Free Speech Union is so important when someone finds themselves targeted by a Twitchfork mob:

Here is the first thing that happens once you have been accused of breaking a social code, when you find yourself at the center of a social-media storm because of something you said or purportedly said. The phone stops ringing. People stop talking to you. You become toxic. “I have in my department dozens of colleagues – I think I have spoken to zero of them in the past year,” one academic told me. “One of my colleagues I had lunch with at least once a week for more than a decade – he just refused to speak to me anymore, without asking questions.” Another reckoned that, of the 20-odd members in his department, “there are two, one of whom has no power and another of whom is about to retire, who will now speak to me.”

FSU New Zealand rallies Kiwis against chilling new ‘hate speech’ laws

More than 10,000 New Zealanders have submitted responses to a consultation on new “hate speech” laws proposed by the Ministry of Justice thanks to an online portal created by the New Zealand FSU, our sister organisation.

Jonathan Ayling, Campaign Manager for the New Zealand FSU, said: “Ministers’ inability to explain what would be criminalised under these proposals reveals the danger they pose to free speech. Vague intention is an irresponsible way to legislate. The Government should listen to the public, and drop these proposed reforms.”

Maureen O’Bern, sacked for raising China’s human rights record

Maureen O’Bern was sacked by Wigan Council after 34 years working for them as a librarian because she objected to the involvement of a state-owned Chinese firm in a major council development. She pointed out, quite rightly, that the Council’s professed commitment to standing up for the rights of oppressed minorities should extend to the Uyghur Muslims forcibly detained in re-education camps by the Chinese authorities. We’ve been supporting Maureen and, with our help, she set out her case on talkRadio in August.

Briefing on the Law Commission’s recommendations for reforming communications offences

Last month we gave a qualified welcome to the Law Commission’s proposals about reforming the Communications Act 2003 and the Malicious Communications Act 1988, which took up many of the FSU’s suggestions in our response to the Commission’s consultation on this issue. The Commission has recommended repealing some of the more censorious communications offences, such as the charge of sending a “grossly offensive” communication which was used to prosecute the comedian Count Dankula for posting a YouTube video of his efforts to teach his girlfriend’s pug to do a Nazi salute. But we are concerned that some of the new laws the Commission has recommended in place of the repealed offences would have a chilling effect on free speech, such as the new “harms based” communications offence, where the definition of “harm” includes psychological harm.

Emma Webb, our deputy research director, has fleshed out some of these concerns in a fuller response that we’ve published in the “Briefings” section of our website. You can read that briefing here.

Battle of Ideas

The FSU will be out in force at this year’s Battle of Ideas Festival at Church House in Westminster on the weekend of the 9th and 10th of October. We’ll be organising a session, chaired by me, called “The FSU Files: How to Fight ‘Cancel Culture’ and Win” in which we’ll hear from individuals who’ve experienced first-hand what it’s like to be cancelled. But these particular individuals also have something else in common: with our help, they’ve all fought back. We will hear from them what the most effective ways are of surviving an online assassination attempt, as well as more general advice on how to persuade people that free speech is a cause worth defending.

Across the weekend, there are numerous other sessions on free speech issues that should be of interest to FSU supporters, including “Hate, Heresy and the Fight for Free Speech”, “From GB News to Ben & Jerry’s: Boycotts or Censorship?”, “Publish and Be Damned?”, “The History Wars”, “The Social Justice March through the Institutions”, “Has Coronavirus Changed Us?” and “Can Culture Survive the Culture Wars?”

I’ll be there all weekend, along with most of the FSU’s staff, encouraging others to join the FSU, so come and find us at our stall and say hello.

Buy tickets here.

Ex-Labour member shamed for “transphobic” t-shirt speaks out

We’ve been assisting our member Rebekah Wershbale since she was labelled a “transphobe” in Labour Party training materials being used across the country – all because she wore a t-shirt saying “Woman: adult human female”. She’s written for Graham Linehan’s substack The Glinner Update about her ordeal.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this monthly newsletter. We’re proud of the work we do, and we think our work is important. Your support is also vital, so please help us to carry on this fight by becoming a member and by spreading the word to friends and family, and sharing this newsletter on social media Click here to sign up today. Thank you for your support of the Free Speech Union.

Kind Regards,

Toby Young

Law Commission follows our recommendation to scrap Malicious Communications Act


A supporter protests outside the trial of comedian Mark Meechan who was prosecuted under the Communications Act for making a “grossly offensive” YouTube video.

Last year, we submitted evidence to a consultation by the Law Society of England and Wales about the law governing harmful, threatening, and false communications, telling the Commission we thought the existing law was far too censorious, particularly the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and section 127 of the Communications Act 2003. (It was this section which resulted in the prosecution of the comedian Mark Meechan for being “grossly offensive” after he made a YouTube video about his efforts to teach his girlfriend’s pug to give a Nazi salute.) We urged the Commission to scrap those offences and we’re pleased to see that it is following our advice. In a report published last month, which refers to the evidence submitted by the FSU repeatedly, the Commission recommended replacing those offences with a new “harm-based” communications offence, whereby it would no longer be enough to show a communicant caused annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to secure a prosecution; in future, the Crown would need to show that they deliberately intended to cause non-trivial psychological or physical harm. In addition, we urged the Commission to exempt journalists and media companies from communications offences and it has followed this advice, too.

While we’re glad to see so many of our recommendations adopted, we do have some reservations about the Commission’s proposals. We’re concerned about overly broad definitions of the word “harm”. As a bare minimum, no one should be prosecuted for a given communication unless it can be shown beyond doubt it caused real harm to a person of reasonable firmness. On a platform like Twitter, for instance, which has 330 million monthly active users, a message may cause one of those individuals non-trivial psychological harm because they are particularly psychologically fragile. But it wouldn’t be fair to prosecute a communicant on that basis.

You can see our press release on the Law Commission’s proposals here. Andrew Tettenborn of our Legal Advisory Council has written for the Critic about the Commission’s report, and FSU Research Director Dr Radomir Tylecote spoke to GB News about what the proposals would mean for free speech, highlighting some of the absurd cases that have come before the courts in recent years.

Hatun Tash’s rights must be protected

Following the knife attack on the Christian preacher and FSU member Hatun Tash at Speakers’ Corner last month, we have written again to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick CBE, urging the Met to do more to protect Ms Tash’s right to free speech:

We accept that policing the capital with necessarily limited resources is a difficult job. As such, we recognise that there is a practical limit to the protection the police can offer to Ms Tash. However we believe that the duty in Fáber v. Hungary is clearly engaged in this case. The Met must therefore make clear to Ms Tash, if it hasn’t already, the steps it proposes to take in order to facilitate her right to speak in Hyde Park. In addition, the Met should make clear to the public, in general terms, how it proposes to carry out its positive duty to protect freedom of speech against intimidatory violence from those seeking to silence others.

You can find a record of our correspondence with the Met about Hatun Tash here and watch her being interviewed on GB News by former FSU Director Inaya Folarin Iman here.

Free speech and the war over sex and gender

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathleen Stock, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sussex and author of Material Girls. We spoke about the transgender debate and the silencing of gender critical feminists who speak out in defence of women’s sex-based rights. One of the most revealing things she talked about was what she referred to as “reverse Voltaire”, whereby her colleagues would support her in private but side with those condemning her in public. It was the opposite of the principle that’s usually attributed to Voltaire, namely, “I disagree profoundly with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” In Kathleen’s case, it was, “I agree profoundly with what you have to say, but I will defend the right to no-platform you for saying it.”

The entire interview can be seen on our YouTube channel. FSU members are invited to all of our regular Speakeasies. The next one, scheduled for September, will be with comedian Graham Linehan. Sign-up as a member today.

Gender critical women forced out of politics

We are continuing to support our member Natalie Bird, who was barred from seeking office by the Liberal Democrats for 10 years after she wore a t-shirt bearing the slogan: “woman: adult human female.” The Lib Dems decided this statement of fact was “transphobic” and Natalie is now raising money to fight a legal battle against the party. Women who oppose trans ideology are being silenced, threatened and hounded out of politics. Help Natalie fight back by contributing to her fundraiser here.

Incidentally, it isn’t just women who are punished for raising doubts about militant trans ideology. Another of our members, James Esses, has been sacked as a volunteer at Childline and kicked off his five-year psychotherapy course for expressing reservations about encouraging children who identify as trans to undergo irreversible, life-changing medical procedures. He is now raising money to bring a case against his course provider. You can read about James’s case in the Mail on Sunday and contribute to his fundraiser here.

FSU member Rebekah Wershbale labelled “transphobe” in Labour Party training material for wearing “woman: adult human female” t-shirt

We have written to Sir Keir Starmer urging him to intervene after a member of ours, Rebekah Wershbale, discovered she is being used in a Labour Party training course as an example of a “transphobe” because she was banned from a pub for wearing a t-shirt saying “woman: adult human female”. We assisted Rebekah in securing the training material in question, which was produced by the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights, Momentum, The World Transformed, and the Labour Party LGBT+ Network as “trans political education” for party activists. The course appears to have been used all over the country by constituency parties.

Once we secured the training material, the course’s creator tried to stop Rebekah from sharing it on spurious copyright grounds – even though her name and photograph were used without her permission.

Rebekah said: “When the seriousness of the situation dawned on me I was horrified. To be singled-out as an example of a transphobic bully by someone I’d never even met or even interacted with was very disturbing, especially given that they used my name and photo. We know very well what happens to women in those crosshairs. We receive actual, real threats of violence and threats to our livelihood. Not just the vague threats of potential ‘misgendering’ or dogwhistling we’re accused of. How many people have gone through this course and seen my name and photo as an example of ‘transphobia’?

“My question is, who is being bullied here? I had no idea my name and image were being used in this way. Accusations of ‘transphobia’ have turned women’s lives upside down. I’m alarmed that this has been greenlit by the Labour Party, knowing what the potential backlash is for women in my position who refuse to play the game of pretend, and who stand up for women’s rights and biological reality.”

You can see Rebekah being interviewed about this on GB News here.

FSU member Nick Buckley talks to GB News about cancel culture

Last year, Nick Buckley MBE was fired from the award-winning charity he founded after he wrote a blog questioning the ideology behind the Black Lives Matter organisation. With our assistance he was reinstated, and the trustees who had forced him out resigned one by one. He spoke to Colin Brazier and the comedian Andrew Doyle, a member of our Advisory Council, on GB News about his experience of cancel culture.

FSU New Zealand wins plaudits

Our New Zealand sister organisation has won plaudits for commissioning research on public opinion about the country’s proposed new hate speech law (similar to Scotland’s Hate Crime and Public Order Act.) Forty three per cent of New Zealanders support the proposals, with 31% opposed and 15% undecided.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand FSU has taken up the case of Dr Raymond Richards, an historian at the University of Waikato who faces disciplinary action after he referred to flat earthers as “cranks”. A student complained and the HR department wrote to him saying it did “not expect to have a repeat of these matters”. An open letter from the New Zealand Free Speech Union has defended Dr Richards’ right to academic freedom.

Free Speech Champions attend Institute of Ideas event in Westminster

The Free Speech Champions – a group of young free speech advocates jointly sponsored by the FSU and the Battle of Ideas charity – were out in force at Open For Debate, a one-day festival organised by the Academy of Ideas on 31 July. We offered our members special discounted tickets to the event and FSU representatives were there on the day to meet attendees. The FSU and the Free Speech Champions sponsored the closing discussion of the day entitled: “How can we combat campus cancel culture?” The FSU will be collaborating with the Academy of Ideas on a two-day festival in October.

Thank you for your support of the FSU. We’re aiming to reach 10,000 members by the end of the year, so spread the word.

Kind regards,

Toby Young

Flagrant indoctrination in English schools

A classroom display produced by children at Arnhem Wharf Primary School in London

The Free Speech Union has submitted a dossier to the Department for Education (DfE) documenting instances of ideological indoctrination in 15 English schools. Teachers have a legal duty to avoid promoting partisan political views in classrooms, but we’ve found evidence that this is routinely being ignored – with the encouragement of the National Education Union, Britain’s largest teaching union, which recently published a report saying schools are “shaped by colonialism” and there is an “urgent” need to “decolonise” every subject and every stage of the school curriculum in the light of last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, including educating children about “white privilege” and “anti-racism”.

In our dossier, we detailed how: a secondary school in Peckham “persistently politicised teaching” with staff circulating Black Lives Matter petitions and students encouraged to create work featuring the slogan “All Cops Are Bastards”; an academy in Wargrave distributed a “kid-friendly guide to social justice terms” that defined police as “workers chosen by, protecting and serving people in power”; and a community college told pupils that disagreeing with people of colour was “covert racism”.

Our submission to the DfE was reported by the Daily Mail and the article is essential reading. The 1996 Education Act imposes a duty to “prevent political indoctrination and secure the balanced treatment of political issues”, and schools are manifestly failing to uphold this crucial responsibility. In some cases, we suspect, they’re not even aware of this legal duty – either that, or the staff believe that depicting our society as “systemically racist” and white people as steeped in the ideology of white supremacy isn’t politically controversial but is an incontestable statement of fact. If you have an example of schools teaching about controversial issues in a politically unbalanced way please contact us.

Rather than force-feeding pupils a diet of woke political views and stifling dissent, schools should be places which value and promote freedom of expression as a fundamental British value. We wrote to the Education Secretary following the events at Batley Grammar School in March calling for the addition of “freedom of speech” to the list of British values which English schools are obliged to promote, and the DfE has replied, claiming that freedom of speech is implicit in the term “British values” and so there’s no reason to make any explicit reference to it in the guidance. We disagree and this is something we will continue to campaign for.

Success: Lisa Keogh cleared after two months’ investigation for saying women have vaginas

Our member Lisa Keogh, the 29-year-old mother-of-two and law finalist at Abertay University, has been cleared of any wrongdoing. The University investigated the ridiculous complaints against her and put her through an extremely stressful, two-month-long investigation process as she tried to complete her degree and sit her final exams. She recently spoke to GB News about the experience. Weekly newsletter readers will have seen the extensive press coverage of this shocking case. Lisa thanked the FSU, citing in particular Fraser Hudghton, our Case Management Director, “who has been on hand at all hours to answer my calls and navigate me through this”.

Stonewall’s Censorship Champions

We’ve just published our latest report, “Stonewall’s Censorship Champions“. Written by Carrie Clark and Shelley Charlesworth, it describes how the LGBT charity has imposed its views on a range of controversial issues involving trans and non-binary people on various public institutions via its Diversity Champions programme, whereby government departments, local authorities, universities, museums, galleries, theatre companies, etc., adopt its policies to secure their “Champion” status. Not only do these policies firmly side with trans people in the conflict between trans rights and sex-based women’s rights, but they often invoke the Equality Act 2010 and claim it proscribes any criticism of what’s come to be known as gender ideology. (For a detailed account of how this works in practice, see this review of how Essex University came to no-platform two gender-critical feminists written by the equalities barrister Akua Reindorf.) Carrie and Shelley note that Stonewall has begun to haemorrhage support in recent months as its overbearing, dogmatic approach has been exposed to public scrutiny and suggest that the way to restore its reputation is to promote an open, grown-up debate about LGBT issues characterised by intellectual tolerance and mutual respect.

“Sensitivity Readers” will destroy what remains of independent student journalism

We’ve written to Oxford University Students’ Union (OUSU) to protest about the requirement that student journalists should submit their work to be vetted by official “sensitivity readers”. This follows a motion by the Students’ Union complaining about “problematic articles” which are “implicitly racist or sexist”. The move will compromise the editorial independence of the Oxford Student, which is owned by OUSU. I wrote a piece for the Spectator in which I said that operating within these guidelines when I was the editor of a satirical student magazine at Oxford would have been both unwelcome and done nothing to prepare me for a career as a journalist. Two of our Free Speech Champions wrote in UnHerd, pointing out that student “sensitivity readers” aren’t confined to Oxford, but are already a fixture in many other universities, including Edinburgh.

The “decolonisation” movement sweeping British universities is a threat to academic freedom

A push to “decolonise” courses at the University of Exeter will jeopardise academic freedom and leave the University’s College of Social Sciences and International Studies open to a legal challenge. That was our warning to the Russell Group university in a letter sent last month, which it has now replied to. The subject of our complaint was the College’s requirement that academics who propose new or revised courses must include content that moves away from a “white, Eurocentric curriculum”. These faddish proposals threaten the freedom of academics to teach their subjects and pursue their research as they see fit, and do nothing to ensure that students receive a rigorous and high-quality education. Moreover, the new policy is a breach of the “Agreement on Academic Freedom” that Exeter signed with its local branch of the University and College Union. That agreement states that academics should “not be forced to instruct against their own best knowledge and conscience” and sets out various safeguards for academic freedom. The agreement was signed in 2009, a lifetime ago in the culture war, and we’ve drawn the Vice-Chancellor’s attention to this important, and apparently forgotten, commitment.

FSU’s support for the school chaplain who was referred to Prevent

We’ve lodged a complaint with the Charity Commission about Trent College, the independent CofE school in Notthingham which referred Dr Bernard Randall, the school chaplain, to Prevent for telling pupils they could question LGBT policies and make their up own minds about gay marriage and whether trans women are women. In addition to referring him to the counter-extremism programme, the school also pushed him out, something Dr Randall is now challenging in the Employment Tribunal. The letter can be read here. If you’re on Twitter, you can watch this clip of Dr Andrew Doyle, a member of the FSU’s Advisory Council, interviewing Dr Randall on GB News.

Dr Neil Thin will face no sanction from Edinburgh University

Another victory for free speech was won in June with the clearance of Dr Neil Thin, an academic at Edinburgh University who was placed under investigation after student activists complained about his “problematic” views. His sin, in their eyes, was to object to the renaming of the David Hume Tower, as well as a university conference on “Whiteness” that included sessions which white people weren’t allowed to speak at. He is a member of the Free Speech Union and we supported him throughout the lengthy investigation during which he was suspended from teaching.

New Zealand FSU wins first victory

Our sister group in New Zealand has won a major victory in New Zealand’s High Court, achieving an injunction reversing the no-platforming of a feminist group, “Speak Up For Women” (SUFW), by the Palmerston North City Council and its libraries.

SUFW is controversial because it rejects “gender theory”, prompting activists to brand it a “hate group” and refer to its members as “TERFs” (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists). The event was part of a nationwide tour to discuss a bill that’s currently before the New Zealand Parliament which would allow people to change their gender simply by making a declaration.

The Court said that the Council was wrong to ban the group. The Judge went on to say: “There is sufficient evidence before me at this stage to be clear that SUFW cannot rationally be described as a ‘hate group’ in the sense that term can be relevant in making decisions about the extent to which a particular group should be allowed to exercise its rights of free speech and freedom of assembly.”

Particularly satisfying was the Judge’s application of the New Zealand Court of Appeal decision issued earlier this year where the NZ Free Speech Union’s predecessor organisation – the Free Speech Coalition – was partially successful in an appeal over a similar council “no-platforming” case involving two controversial Canadian speakers. The Union is currently seeking leave to appeal to New Zealand’s Supreme Court for judicial guidance on balancing security concerns with free speech and to stop the no-platforming of controversial speakers on spurious health and safety grounds.

Free speech: how can we combat campus cancel culture?

The FSU is sponsoring an event at the Battle of Ideas mini-festival on the new Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill and resisting cancel culture on university campuses. Professor Eric Kaufmann of our Advisory Council will be on the panel. Further details can be found here.

We are delighted to be partnering with the Battle of Ideas for their live, one-day event, Open for Debate, on Saturday 31st July at Church House, Westminster, London. Sessions include Free speech: how can we combat campus cancel culture?, Beyond Culture Wars: how to argue better in an age of conformity and What does the Sewell Report mean for education? The excellent line-up of speakers across the entire day includes Eric Kaufmann, Dennis Hayes, Tony Sewell, Calvin Robinson, Claire Fox and Arif Ahmed. The Free Speech Champions will also be there manning a stall, so do come along and say hello.

If you have children currently studying for A-levels or at university, this would be a great event to bring them along to.

Polish community newspaper saved

Thanks to all of you who donated to the appeal for Polish-community newspaper Nowy Czas. It faced ruin after a vexatious libel case and a string of judicial errors. But the claim against it has been dropped. We’re proud to have played a part in defending freedom of the press.

Watch: The Online Safety Bill’s threat to free speech

The Government says the Online Safety Bill will make the UK “the safest place in the world to go online”. We say it will restrict online free speech to a degree almost unprecedented in any democracy and empower Ofcom, which it proposes to make the new social media regulator, to censor controversial views.

Our two experts discussing the Bill were the FSU’s Director of Research Dr Radomir Tylecote and Matthew Lesh, Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute. Rado and Matthew are co-authors of the FSU’s Briefing “You’re On Mute: The Online Safety Bill and what the Government should do instead”, a critical assessment of the Government’s Online Safety Bill. The evening was hosted by Claire Fox, Director of the Academy of Ideas and a member of the FSU’s Advisory Council. You can watch a recording of the discussion on our YouTube channel here.

Work for the FSU: we’re recruiting a new Membership Director

We’re looking to hire a part-time Membership Director. Do you have an excellent track record of managing member relationships and growing a membership organisation? Have you got strong experience in member communications and administration? Are you able to develop and deliver not-for-profit, digitally driven strategies? If so, and if you care passionately about free speech, please apply. The job will initially be for two days a week, but will grow as more members join. The salary is £45,000 – £50,000 per annum, pro rated. You can find out more here and you can apply by sending a CV and introductory letter to jobs@freespeechunion.org.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this monthly newsletter. We’re proud of the work we do, and we think it’s important. Your support is also vital. Please help us to carry on this fight by joining the Free Speech Union, and by sharing this newsletter. We currently have about 8,300 members, but we want to get to 10,000 by the end of the year. We also hope to open affiliate groups across the Anglosphere – and you can see the website of our New Zealand affiliate here. The United States will be next.

Kind regards,

Toby Young