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Free speech is stifled

Some of the recent arguments from those desperate to leave the EU as soon as possible have bordered on hysteria and paranoia.

Anyone trying to have a reasoned debate about how we undertake this massively complex task is now labelled a traitor, in a clear attempt to stifle free speech.

Despite MPs clearly accepting the result of the advisory referendum (overwhelmingly voting to trigger article 50), some people refuse to trust their sovereign Parliament to do its vital job of scrutinising the most important international agreement the UK has negotiated in decades.

People love simple stories with clearly defined ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’. That’s fine in the movies, but real life is rarely as simple.

For decades the British public have been drip-fed misinformation about the EU in thousands of headlines in the UK’s most popular newspapers (if you doubt this, simply search for ‘euromyths’ on the internet).

The result is that many now see the EU as a pantomime villain, whose defeat will be a magical panacea that will solve all the UK’s problems.

In these pages there was a letter making comparisons between the EU and Robert Mugabe which shows a worrying lack of understanding.

It seems that this hugely oversimplified narrative is fuelling the divisive nature of the current debate.

The reality is that this is not a James Bond film and the EU is not Spectre. The EU is a flawed organisation that, on balance, has benefitted the UK.

The causes of the UK’s problems are far more complex, as leavers will hopefully be willing to admit once we’ve left the EU.

NEIL MERCER, Maidstone Road, Swindon

Press whipped up hate

WHEN does freedom of the press allow for hate speech?

Whatever anyone’s view of the vote on the amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill on Wednesday, it surely cannot be acceptable that a prominent daily tabloid (The Daily Mail Thursday December 14 in case you missed it) printed a front page that effectively acts as a Wanted poster for the Tory rebels who voted with their consciences and in support of an amendment that maintains Parliamentary sovereignty.

I was appalled when I saw the front page and even more appalled to hear that death threats have been received by MP Dominic Grieve, the author of the successful amendment.

The freedom of the press to report without prejudice is fundamental in a democracy like ours, but I question whether this freedom includes whipping up hatred, especially when it was only last year that an MP was murdered for her beliefs.

SARAH CHURCH, Shrivenham

Bid to overturn vote

Last Wednesday’s defeat on the Government by some Tory rebels was nothing more then a cynical attempt to pervert the will of the electorate.

Insisting that Parliament must have a meaningful vote on the deal was not done, in my opinion, to allow Parliament the right to give the deal legal authority but more likely to give the Remainers a chance to put in amendments to allow for another Referendum when the deal is put to the House of Commons.

It will come as no surprise to me when a deal is agreed the Remainers in Parliament will insist it’s put to the electorate with the view to accepting the deal or remaining in the EU.

Call me a cynic but I don’t trust all this talk about respecting the referendum vote. There have been many attempts to overturn the result.

I might be wrong. I hope I am but I have a sneaky feeling that the Remainers in Parliament will do their best to stop us from leaving.

ALLAN WOODHAM, Nythe, Swindon

The masses can rise up

ALTHOUGH I have sympathy with the sentiments voiced in A Collin’s (AC) letter (Shame on voters) I do not agree Conservative voters must take the blame for the appalling social statistics.

AC is right to draw attention to the growing misery that comes with Tory austerity policies and we should certainly work to kick them out.

But his frustration leads him to miss how control by the rich is propped up ideologically by a whole host of institutions and that these ideological props can be quickly swept away.

This has been true of every class society - empires of the ancient world, feudalism and capitalism.

So, for example, in the early 1600s in England most people would have believed they had a king because God made it so. Then waves of struggle led people to quickly see things differently. Charles I was executed.

Unfortunately, the level of struggle today is low and as the rich get away with squeezing us it seems natural.

We get a growth of scapegoating and other symptoms of hopelessness. Conservatism isn’t automatically damaged by the misery it causes.

While understandable, AC’s blaming of voters is based on the same negative view of people as the Conservatives he opposes.

But history tells us that masses of people can be transformed overnight in struggles which show that solidarity makes far more sense than the Conservative “tuppence half-penny looking down on tuppence” outlook.

The Conservative Government represents the rich, not the mass of those responsible for voting them in.

PETER SMITH, Woodside Avenue, Swindon

Council shells out cash

READING the weekly column by the council leader, it is nice to see how well the council is doing.

He says requests for help to aid the Corn Exchange or the Mechanics’ Institute cannot be done, as they are not owned by the council. I don’t remember this stopping the council giving more than £1m to put a ‘temporary roof’ on the Mechanics or planning to spend £7m on the old Carriage Works, again a building they don’t own, but I am told they are in the process of trying to buy it, so that will be another £5m loan.

T REYNOLDS, Wheeler Avenue, Swindon