An open air debate banned by Kirklees Council went ahead anyway on Thursday thanks to the defiance of its organisers. The debate in Batley's marketplace had been billed as a 'free speech rally' by Reclaim Party leader Laurence Fox. The chief topic for discussion was the ongoing fallout from the Muhammad cartoon incident at Batley Grammar School - the teacher involved is still in hiding from Muslim fanatics three months on. A spokesman for Labour-run Kirklees Council said their ban on the rally was on the grounds of 'public safety':
"The council welcomes healthy debate and respects freedom of speech. We also have a responsibility to make sure all events we permit on our land are safe, well organised and take into account potential disruption to local residents and businesses. That’s why we ask organisers - in advance of an event - to provide details of their plans, how they have assessed potential risks and how we can work together to make sure their event goes smoothly for everyone. This is a common sense approach and is standard practice across local authorities. In this case, the event organisers have not requested permission for the use of the council’s land. In the absence of assurances on public safety and legal compliance with Covid requirements or the impact on residents and businesses, council staff had no choice but to notify the organiser that they did not have permission to use the council’s assets".
Fox called the decision an 'affront to democracy' and went ahead as planned. Also speaking at the rally was the popular local independent candidate Paul Halloran, who has indicated that he would stand as a Reclaim candidate in future. Neither Halloran or Reclaim are standing in next week's by-election, but George Galloway is - much to the dismay of his former party. Galloway addressed the rally and had some damning analysis of Labour, outgoing Batley MP Tracy Brabin and identity politics.
In a separate interview, Galloway went further: "Labour is going out in a puff of wokery. Its trans-mania infatuation has turned off millions. The visceral dislike of Labour on white English working-class estates is palpable. People have concluded Labour doesn’t like them - and they heartily reciprocate". Ironically it's the Muslim vote that Galloway is reportedly mopping up in Batley and Spen, dividing what had previously been a block Labour vote and almost certainly delivering the seat to the Tories in the process.
Both the Labour and Conservative candidates ignored an invitation to attend the debate, something Fox alluded to on Twitter.
The rally was attended by around 200 locals and heard from Fox, Halloran, Galloway, Martin Daubney (ex-Brexit Party MEP) and candidates from the SDP and Monster Raving Loony Party. Labour's absence and their council's attempt to halt the event will have done the party no favours in Batley. And say what you like about Galloway, but he is a man who defies the contemporary cancel crybabies of the left and will share a platform with anyone - including his political opponents. This is called being a grown up!
|Galloway addresses the small crowd in Batley's marketplace|
The full rally can be seen here.