Of course, this is no doubt a lot more complicated than it appears at first glance, but nonetheless the apparent attempts to shut down UKIP press spokesman Gawain Towler’s long-running England Expects blog are to be heartily condemned. As the man himself says, it is his job – as the spokesman of a party that exists to attack and ridicule the EU – to, erm, attack and ridicule the EU.
He hasn’t (that I can recall) incited violence or hatred. He hasn’t (that I can recall) threatened anyone. He hasn’t (that I can recall) even leaked any particularly sensitive information (after all, how sensitive could it really be to find its way into the hands of UKIP’s press office?) So why try to shut him down? It’s hard not to see this as being some jobsbody official’s ill-considered plan to silence a source of irritation.
This is by no means a Hans-Martin Tillack, Marta Andreasen. But it does play into the hands of the EU’s critics in just the same way. If someone criticises you and your response is not to engage them in debate but to try to silence them, it is you, not they, who ends up looking bad.
Democracy is about discussion. It may be inconvenient to have to discuss things with parties like UKIP, but if they have been elected then you have no choice. This is what democracy is all about. (And yes, I have argued the same thing about fascists – more than once. UKIP may be many things, but they’re not fascists.)
The only way the EU is going to be able to build the kind of cross-continental demos that it needs is through fostering discussion and debate – and moves like this will do precisely the opposite.