We write in response to George Leith’s comment piece in last week’s paper, on our brief disruption of Norman Baker’s lecture on drug policy.
We know what Norman Baker spoke about. We were there after all. And we agree, for what it’s worth, that drugs policy and decriminalisation are issues we need to talk about. We disagree though that Norman Baker is worth listening to.
Before the general election, Baker made a pledge to vote against an increase in tuition fees, and claimed to support free education. When in power he did the opposite—he voted, along with dozens of other Lib Dems- to triple fees. While Baker was a minister in the Home Office, the Home Secretary Theresa May introduced plans to revoke the UK citizenship of those suspected of terrorism, often leaving them stateless. This year May initiated legislation giving police and intelligence services access to the browsing history and social media use of every internet user in the UK, and Baker’s Home Office has deported dying hunger strikers, LGBTQ people facing violence, imprisonment or death, and children facing genital mutilation.
So when Norman Baker tells us he’s on our side because he supports decriminalising weed, should we believe him? Of course not. His record in government speaks for itself: behind the progressive facade he’s just another vicious authoritarian.
It was said that by disrupting Norman Baker we infringed upon his freedom of speech. But we were among the hundreds of students kettled for hours in the freezing cold on that day four years ago when Baker reneged on his pledge and £9000 fees were passed. And a few days ago on the national demonstration for free education we saw protesting students dragged away by police bleeding from the head and semi-conscious. Last year at Sussex five students were suspended on flimsy evidence for daring to take a stand against Michael Farthing’s plans for privatisation. So when you talk about free speech, think about whose freedom is really at risk: is it that of a man who until recently was part of the gang running the country—who writes the law and whose every political move is a headline? Or is it our freedom that’s threatened?
Free Education Sussex is a group of activists arguing for a rethinking of our privatised, profit-driven higher education system and organising for the rights and conditions of workers on campus. We meet every Monday at 6pm in Falmer House meeting room 3. All are welcome, with the exception of members of the Socialist Workers Party.
Free Education Sussex