3.45pm: Chris Grayling told me earlier that the party would NOT be issuing a statement on this issue but forty minutes ago this statement was released from his office:
“We have consistently called on the Government to tackle extremists. If Geert Wilders has expressed views that represent a threat to public security, then we support the ban. But people like Ibrahim Moussawi, a spokesman for the terrorist organisation Hizbollah, have not been banned. The Government must apply the criteria governing entry into the UK consistently.”
You don't have to agree with the very strong views of Dutch politician Geert Wilders to worry at the British Government's decision to ban him from entering Britain.
The Times thinks his views are "laughable", "inflammatory" and "illiberal" but still runs a leader this morning entitled 'Let Him In':
"The right to oppose, mock, deride and even insult people's beliefs is essential to a society where bad ideas are superseded by better ones. There is no right to have one's emotional sensibilities protected, for it is no business of government to legislate for people's feelings. Mr Wilders' views are obnoxious, and (not but) his freedom to express them must be defended."
On CentreRight yesterday Douglas Murray noted the hypocrisy of the Government's position:
"Numerous extremist clerics still come into this country each year and numerous others (not least those filmed by the Dispatches crew) remain happily untroubled by our authorities despite being filmed calling for the murders of Jews, homosexuals, Hindus, Muslim apostates and others. This country hosts many ambassadors – official and unofficial – for terrorist organisations such as Hamas and Hezbollah who call for the annihilation of whole peoples. These people do not find themselves deported, nor barred from entry or re-entry into the country."
One often gets the impression that the Government will bend over backwards to appease extreme Muslim opinion. It is also disappointing that the Conservatives are silent on this issue of free speech. Speaking to CCHQ and Chris Grayling this morning I was told not to expect a public statement.
> Related link from The Telegraph's Damian Thompson: "On three separate occasions, [Douglas] Murray has found himself on a panel with Tory spokesmen. And, each time, the Tory has told him off for using the phrase "Islamist terrorism". The approved word is "criminality". As Murray told me: "It's as if they can't see the difference between stealing a handbag and setting off a car bomb outside a nightclub.""