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Candidates Answers to Hustings Q6: Political discourse:

Political discourse

Are ‘the left’ becoming more authoritarian? Using techniques such as ‘no platforming’, ‘no debate’, ‘cancel culture’, demonetizing/de-funding and employment/contract termination.

Has the left has become more intolerant over the past few years, and do these techniques improve political discourse?

6. shahrar Ali        100 wc

Unfortunately, authoritarianism has afflicted movements across the political spectrum and, yes, that includes traditionally left politics. I have seen thresholds for tolerating engagement with political opponents substantially lowered and I regard that as deeply problematic for liberal democracy – which thrives on contesting and challenging ideas through free speech. The mantra ‘not up for debate’ is particularly damaging for politics and encourages dangerous groupthink – in which environment, falsehood and distortion thrive because of such limited exposure to challenge. In our own party, I have seen women debarred from organising fringe events at conference on the most questionable of pretexts.

6. cleo Lake      79 wc

I think its a very difficult time for people to feel comfortable speaking their minds and often their fears. I welcome safe spaces where different points of view can be respectfully debated and that people with different life experiences and views can learn from each other and hopefully find some consensus. I also think these aspects do not help to increase our mass appeal because they show an attitude and often use language that I believe is not accessible.

6. Amelia Womack     100 wc

We must protect free political discourse but no-one should be allowed to be given a platform that undermines the rights of others or a group of people. It’s vital that we are clear and consistent in our opposition as Greens to racism, misogyny, anti-semitism, homophobia, abelism, transphobia and xenophobia.

I have spoken out on several occasions over the years about misogynistic language used in the media, and have complained to IPSO. When hurtful language is used on these kinds of platforms it enables it in society and must be called out if we want to build progressive and accepting communities.

6. andrea Carey Fuller     164 wc

-There is too much 'group-think' going on which effectively stops people from investigating and researching information for themselves - because of the wave of pressure put out by group-think onto social media. We have seen this in relation to one aspect of activism within Trans Rights whereby standing up for women's sex-based rights is automatically 'dubbed' as being transphobic or TERF, yet women's sex-based rights stand alongside other people's rights (and some of these sex-based rights will also support Trans Women - in relation to objectification, misogyny (where a trans woman passes for a woman) etc

- There is a right to free speech and open debate in the UK and people also have a right Under Art 9 of the HRA to freedom of 'thought and conscience' - we should always be open to dialogue and Women standing up for women's rights should be able to meet and discuss women's sex-based discrimination issues without fear of violence against them or demonstration against them.

6. rosie Sexton     219 wc

I don't think this is a particular issue with either "the left" or "the right". I think that political discussion in general has become more polarised in recent years, for a number of reasons. In particular, I think the rise of social media has caused a lot of challenges, and has emboldened a minority to use increasingly abusive language and engage in a way calculated to cause distress. This can become amplified when large numbers of people pick up on the initial message. One consequence of this (amongst other factors) is that debate around sensitive topics can become unmanageable. Complex issues are reduced to soundbites and nuance can be lost.

I don't think there's an easy answer to what we do to improve the situation. As a species, we are still figuring out how to use digital communication to our best advantage; it is still very early days, and we're going through some teething troubles. Whilst discussion is important, I also feel strongly that nobody should be put in a position where they are forced to defend their right to be who they are.

I think it is right that topics that centre around the identity of particular marginalised groups are handled sensitively. We need to find ways to do this that respect the needs of all our members.

6. sian Berry & jonathan bartley     224 wc

It is an important part of our values as a party to do politics differently and to promote consensual ways of debating and to avoid abuse. This was the theme of our first speech as co-leaders to conference and we have acted to remind members of our principles in this respect a number of times since, alongside our deputy. Social media has done a lot to connect the world better and to highlight injustice, and can be a force for good, so it has been distressing in recent years to see a serious souring of the discourse on these platforms, and wave after wave of intolerance, misinformation and abuse directed at minorities in coordinated campaigns, of which the Brexit debates, islamophobic and racist abuse aimed at politicians, transphobia, antisemitism and rank misogyny are just some examples with many intersectional issues meaning that some people online face being exposed to incredibly high levels of hostility. It is our job as Greens to be better than this, especially in how we relate to each other. Action must be taken when people cross lines, and we are working to improve the resources, speed, efficiency, consistency of our dispute resolution and disciplinary processes so that members know both that abuse will see action and that there are ways to resolve differences outside the heat of social media platforms.

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