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