Best for Britain have been refused entry to the upcoming Tory conference, but the group will keep making their case, says Chief Executive Eloise Todd.
This week saw the beginning of conference season – a time for ideas to be debated and new visions for the British political landscape to emerge. But all of that – and our democratic right to freedom of expression – is under threat from a paranoid Tory party.
Political party conferences have only just kicked off, but we’re already into silly season with gags and gossip at every corner.
But conference season isn’t just about the meme-able moments. Each party’s annual event is primarily designed to build a forum for policy discussion within the party. That means an opportunity to raise issues the various leaderships would prefer were kept under wraps and away from the eagle-eyed television cameras.
Brexit is one such issue around which debate isn’t welcome – especially if you’re Theresa May and have a sinister gang of Brexit extremists breathing down your neck.
A few weeks back, Conservative Party HQ banned my organisation, Best for Britain, and other pro-European groups, from taking paid advertising to promote events to their conference attendees. No explanation to offer – just that it was a right they held under their terms and conditions to refuse anyone a spot on their brochure.
Fast forward to last week and they were trying to pull the same dirty old trick. This time CCHQ took it one step further and refused to grant me and two members of my Best for Britain staff passes to attend the conference. Once again no real reason was forthcoming.
It should be remembered that this Tory government has previous when it comes to stifling questions: who can forget the Prime Minister’s outright refusal to take part in televised debates during the 2017 general election?
But having seen Chequers go down like a lead balloon with the public – and get slaughtered in the press by her own party – Theresa May’s fragile halfway house Brexit can withstand no further examination it seems. The cracks that are so painfully obvious to everyone looking on continue to be stuffed with rehearsed lines lacking in anything resembling substance.
Such a precedent is dangerous and threatens the democratic principle of freedom of expression that we culturally hold so dear. There’s also a sour layer of hypocrisy that underpins the whole drama: wasn’t this the same party whose Universities Minister, only this year, called for campuses to ban the practice of ‘no-platforming’ in the name of free speech? The mind boggles at the pick-and-mix free speech this government believes in.
But they won’t stop us, or the people of this country, from talking about Brexit. Our event will still go ahead at Tory conference. Best for Britain works with people from all parties and none, and it’s important free democratic debate takes place.
Brexit is the biggest, most complex issue our country has faced in over a generation and Conservative members are grown ups who can surely be trusted to know what’s best for the country, even if they hear ideas that disagree with government policy.
That’s why I urge you to sign our petition to demand that Theresa May lifts the ban on groups advocating different opinion over Brexit at Conservative Party conference and puts our event in the conference directory.
Democracy needs debate. It needs people to listen to all sides and make informed decisions. The Prime Minister, despite her track record, should embrace new voices – not run away from them.
Best for Britain’s Tory conference event: ‘Do we need a people’s vote? The Conservative case for a final say on the Brexit deal’ will be held on the 1st October at 10.30am in the Barra Room at the Hilton Garden Inn with Dr Phillip Lee MP.
Eloise Todd is Chief Executive of Best for Britain.
[Photo credit: Number 10]
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