Time to ban violent rallies

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FAR-right rallies are a far cry from most people’s idea of the honourable tradition of British free speech.

FAR-right rallies are a far cry from most people’s idea of the honourable tradition of British free speech.

Gatherings of groups such as the English Defence League, which have become a depressingly regular feature of weekend life in towns and cities around the country, are claimed by their organisers to be examples of democracy in action, legitimate protests by a “human rights group” concerned at the rise of Islamist extremism.

In reality, however, they usually amount to little more than crowds of angry young men standing half-naked in the streets and shouting unintelligibly.

So there will be no shortage of support for the call by South Yorkshire Chief Constable David Crompton for a change in the law which would stop far-Right groups such as the EDL from continuing to hold rallies and marches.

Indeed, at a time when the police are facing serious financial cutbacks, it seems absurd that forces are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on policing such events while paring their budgets to the bone on many other services on which the public wellbeing depends.

Instead of giving the police extra taxpayers’ money to help them to cope with such unwelcome demands on their time, the Government should give serious thought to acceding to Mr Crompton’s request.

There would, of course, be predictable protests about this being a restriction of democratic rights, but any serious examination of this claim would show that it has no validity whatsoever.

The very fact that so many officers are needed to police EDL rallies demonstrates the potential of these events for provoking violent disorder, as a result of confrontations between the League itself and those rival organisations which insist on gathering to oppose it.

There is nothing undemocratic or illiberal about banning gatherings likely to provoke violence and which have little popular support in any case. And if the EDL disagrees with this, then let it participate in democracy by actually standing in elections and showing the nation exactly how much popularity it has.

Rate-rise fears

Homeowners close to the edge

THOSE curious to know why interest rates remain at record lows, in spite of various economic indicators suggesting that a modest rise is overdue, only have to consult the results of today’s survey showing that more than one-in-three homeowners fear that any rise would plunge them into financial difficulties.

The Bank of England is, of course, notionally independent of government and free to make its own decision on when to increase rates. But such would be the potential impact on voters of any rise – with 5.8 million homeowners potentially in jeopardy, according to this survey – that an increase in rates is surely unthinkable this side of the General Election.

Certainly, this precarious situation explains why no party leader is agitating for a rate rise. But regardless of the possibility of political interference, the Bank would surely be wary in any case of making a move which might slow the economic recovery by infringing homeowners’ spending power.

This is why Governor Mark Carney repeatedly goes out of his way to dampen expectations of a rate rise – in spite of frenzied media speculation – instead suggesting alternative remedies to slow the increase in house prices.

This is bad news for savers, now long despairing of seeing any reward for their prudence.

But it is also a reminder that Britain’s addiction to spending beyond its means was not limited to politicians and bankers. Ordinary citizens, too, took on commitments during the boom years which, even now, with the recovery well under way, leave them only a rate rise or two away from financial disaster.

In full bloom

All well in Yorkshire’s garden

THE region received an early reward for its vision and ambition in hosting the Tour de France’s Grand Départ when the Tour de Yorkshire garden – a miniature version of the county’s rich and varied landscape – picked up a silver award at this week’s Chelsea Flower Show.

In its tireless campaign to ensure that all are fully informed of the imminent arrival in Yorkshire of the elite of world cycling, it was entirely typical of Welcome to Yorkshire to identify the flower show as a key marketing opportunity.

And it was equally typical of the tourism organisation’s commitment to excellence that the garden has been such a success – a precursor, no doubt, of the true flowering of Yorkshire’s glory which will arrive in only a few weeks’ time.

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