Thought crimes

By Stephen Pollard
May 8, 2007

I suppose I need to make clear at the top of this post that I regard the BNP as contemptible; that I consider its members to be despicable; that I despise its leaders as criminal (it's not that I regard its leaders as criminal, it is that they are criminals); and that, for all the 'explanations' offered for the behaviour of supposedly decent people in voting for them, I can think of no justification in any circumstance, ever, for voting for the BNP.

However. In a democracy we are surely entitled to vote for legally constituted parties we support, however disgusting they may be. Not, however, if we are policemen and women:

One of Britain's biggest police forces is investigating allegations that it has British National party members among its frontline officers, the Guardian has learned.

...The force says it has seized CCTV footage and its detectives will scour it frame by frame for evidence. The force vowed that any officer found to be a BNP member could be sacked. But the BNP claimed it has members among the force's ranks.

...Police officers are not allowed to be members of the BNP, which is widely seen as being racist and which has members with convictions for violence. The policy was passed by police chiefs three years ago. They say membership of the party is incompatible with officers' duties under race equality laws.

If this isn't a thought crime, what is? Being banned not for what you do or say, but what you believe. I'm sure there are people in organisations I deal with who have foul beliefs. I am sure that I deal with antisemites. But what matters is whether they act on those beliefs. If they treat me as they would anyone else then, much as I might find their views despicable, I can have no cause for complaint about those private beliefs.

If a policeman behaves as a racist then he or she should, of course, be drummed out of the force. But if he behaves with total propriety in his duties, how can it be right to ban him or her for sending a cheque once a year to an - and this is the critical point - entirely legal organisation?


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