Mother Town miracle as local people shine for Christmas

Burslem's Christmas lights campaigners celebrate their success.

Burslem’s Christmas lights campaigners celebrate their success.

Campaigners determined to bring a little festive cheer to the Mother Town have smashed their fund-raising target to pay for Christmas lights.

Saddened by the fact that Burslem was the only town in the Potteries with no public decorations, they set about trying to raise £3,200 to pay for three sets of tree lights and seven sets of street lights.

But in just nine days campaign organisers Louise Worthington, John and Jayne Flint, June Cartwright and their families and friends raised more than £5,000 to light up the streets.

Their remarkable success means the town will now have four lit Christmas trees and eleven sets of street lights.

What’s more, the group have pledged to do the same again for 2013 and are planning a meeting in the New Year to kick-start 12 months of fund-raising.

Jayne, aged 43, who lives in High Lane, Burslem, said: “We are so proud of everyone who has been involved. This is a genuine example of a community pulling together.

“The generosity of people really does bring a tear to you eye and, as a result, Burslem will shine this Christmas.”

The campaign was prompted by council cutbacks of £84,000 which meant that only Hanley received local authority funding for Christmas decorations.

Traders and local people in Stoke, Fenton, Longton and Tunstall organised their own trees and lights but it was looking like Burslem would be left in the shadows.

Then last week Burslem locals began their campaign by creating a page on social network Facebook which quickly attracted more than 1,300 supporters.

Various events and collections were organised – including a disco and raffle at Burslem’s oldest pub, Ye Olde Crown – and Port Vale fans donated more than £1,000 on away trip coaches and before Tuesday night’s home game against Bradford City.

The 67th Burslem Scout Group and Vale mascot Boomer were among those rattling collection buckets at Vale Park.

Businesses across the Mother Town also contributed including: Kelly Molyneux & Co. Accountants; New Image tattoo parlour; Chillz bar; the Bull’s Head pub; The Swan pub; The Leopard pub and Barewall art gallery.

Autonet Insurance, based in Nile Street, spent £550 to purchase an additional set of Christmas tree lights and its managing director Ian Donaldson said the firm, which employs 600 people, was looking forward to working with the campaigners next year.

Meanwhile, the owners of the Artbay gallery in Fenton also donated a special print which was auctioned off to raise £150.

Stoke-on-Trent Markets gave £300 but the largest single donation came from recycling firm Acumen, based on Hot Lane, which donated £1,500 to the cause.

Contracts manager Adrian Moore said: “I read about the campaign in Friday’s Sentinel and wondered if we could help out.

“We are a company which employs around 35 people from the local area and our owner John Hodges was very keen to contribute. It is terrific the way local people and businesses have worked together for the common good to make Christmas special in Burslem.”

*The lights will be switched on tomorrow when Santa Claus emerges from The George Hotel.

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Community spirit is alive and well in Burslem this Christmas

lights

If we’re being honest nobody really understood what the Prime Minister was talking about when he first used the phrase ‘Big Society’.
Call-me-Dave’s press office dressed it up as the idea of taking away power from politicians and institutions and giving it to local people.
But many cynics felt it was little more than a smokescreen to hide the Coalition Government’s butchery of the public sector.
Cynics like the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, who described the Big Society as ‘aspirational waffle designed to conceal a deeply damaging withdrawal of the state from its responsibilities to the most vulnerable.’
Well here in the Potteries we have what I believe is a prime example of the Big Society in action – whichever definition you believe.
You see, the Scrooges at Stoke-on-Trent City Council have decided Christmas is only happening in Hanley this year.
To be fair, amid care home closures and job losses one can understand why fir trees and baubles aren’t perhaps high on the local authority’s list of priorities.
Except in the city centre, of course.
The other forgotten five towns are receiving no council funding for their Christmas lights this year – saving taxpayers £84,000 as the authority attempts to cut millions more to balance its books over the next financial year.
However, in Fenton, Longton, Stoke and Tunstall traders have done their best to spread a little festive cheer by making the Christmas lights a DIY affair.
Which just left little old Burslem in the shadows.
But not for long.
I’ve no idea what their political persuasions are but I’m pretty sure David Cameron would be proud of the way locals Louise Worthington and John Flint have taken it upon themselves to brighten up the Mother Town of the Potteries over the festive period.
As, I’m sure, would the Archbishop.
If the Big Society means getting off your backside and doing something positive for your community rather than moaning about your lot then Louise, John and their pals should be its poster boys and girls.
They organised a meeting, set up a Facebook page with the help of their friend June Cartwright, and began collecting donations from individuals and businesses.
They’ve held raffles and will tonight stage a bucket collection at Vale Park ahead of the cup game against Bradford as they hope to close in on their target of collecting £3,500 to pay for three trees and seven sets of lights.
It may not seem like a lot of money in the grand scheme of things but it is £3,500 that needed to be raised quickly and this could only have happened if people could be bothered enough to make an effort.
One can understand why Louise and John were reluctant to let Christmas pass by in a place like Burslem which has a thriving night time economy.
I have nothing but admiration for the people who are taking it upon themselves to fill the vacuum left by council cutbacks.
The campaign to save Tunstall Pool was ultimately doomed to failure precisely because success would have meant the victors making an undertaking to run a large leisure facility full-time – with all the ongoing funding, time commitment and expertise that would require.
But once-yearly events or causes like putting up Christmas lights in a town are eminently achievable because the sums of money involved are relatively modest and people have 12 months to raise the necessary funds.
I sincerely hope that by tomorrow’s deadline Louise and John have raised the money they need to brighten up Burslem.
If they do they may well find themselves in a similar boat next year because it is highly unlikely the city council will play fairy godmother and find the money for Christmas lights in every town.
At least they can start fund-raising in January.
The problem that Burslem has is that it is a town where, with the odd notable exception, the only businesses faring well are the pubs.
Thirty years ago, when yours truly was growing up, it used to have a market, shoe shops and a Woolies.
Mum used to take me and my brother there on Saturdays to do some shopping – rather than making the trip to Hanley.
Nowadays you would struggle to buy much more than a pint, a kebab or some craft item in the Mother Town.
Yes, it’s a brilliant place for a night out but the truth is it has never recovered from the loss of big employers like Royal Doulton.
Stroll through on a week day and it is a veritable ghost town, dotted with empty shops and cursed with the great white elephant that is the old Ceramica building/Town Hall.
Burslem has the finest architecture in the Potteries, some nice craft and gift shops, some cracking pubs and a few too many takeaways and restaurants.
And that’s about it.
What it desperately needs is a plan.
Perhaps a rejuvenated Port Vale – or rather the business plans the club’s new owners have for Vale Park – will help to breathe new life into the town.
What is clear is that Burslem, its businesses, and the people who care about it, can no longer rely on the local authority for either the finances or the strategy to drag it out of the doldrums.
Instead, people like Louise Worthington and John Flint are going to become more and more important until new employers come along to restart the town’s economy.

No winners – only losers as Whitehall punishes Stoke-on-Trent

If you were harbouring any ambitions to go into local politics, then BBC4’s excellent documentary The Year The Town Hall Shrank should have disabused you of the notion.
It’s one thing to be an MP, working much of the time in Westminster and somewhat shielded from your constituents by the fact that a) you are just one of 652 decision-makers and b) you may well be in opposition so can blame controversial decisions on those in power.
But when you dip your toe into the murky waters of town hall politics, the fact is there’s every chance you’ll have it bitten off if those who can be bothered to vote don’t like what’s happened in the previous 12 months.
Thursday’s programme, the first of three focusing on Stoke-on-Trent City Council, cleverly combined a behind-the-scenes look at the powers-that-be with some incredibly emotive footage of real people affected by unprecedented public-sector cuts.
It was the kind of documentary which reminds us that the BBC still does solid, fly-on-the-wall journalism. The only shame is that it was broadcast on BBC4.
The fact that the first episode was set in 2010 and early 2011 made it an even more gripping watch because we knew what was coming. It was akin to seeing a car crash in slow-motion and being unable to tear your eyes away.
I can’t think of another occasion where, in the space of 60 minutes, I’ve felt sympathy for so many people from different walks of life – from dementia sufferers and young mums to the rabbits in the headlights that were the elected members of the city council facing multi-million cutbacks early last year.
Sadly, at times the programme didn’t portray the city’s leaders in a great light.
The way in which the dementia sufferers at the Heathside House elderly care home, and their families, were treated by the city council was shabby, to say the least.
It felt very much as though they were an after-thought.
Even the whistle-stop visit to the place by council leader Mohammed Pervez – on the day politicians voted to shut it down – felt like a token gesture.
One can certainly argue that operating such care homes isn’t cost-effective and that the services they provide don’t fit with the council’s future care strategy. The problem is that we saw the human face of Heathside House, which made one question why anyone would ever want to fix something which clearly wasn’t broken.
What we saw was very frail and vulnerable people being looked after with great compassion and devotion by staff who had come to regard them as family.
What we saw were relatives driven to despair by the local authority’s callous disregard for ordinary people’s lives.
It left me thinking that surely the inevitable closure could have been handled better, perhaps phased over time, with more sensitivity and delivered with a more humane approach.
Perhaps the fact that the residents of Heathside House didn’t have a vocal campaign group collecting thousands of signatures and making life uncomfortable for the city council’s leadership was what did for the home in the end.
In sharp contrast, the mums who mobilised themselves to save seven of the city’s 16 children’s centres made themselves quite simply impossible to ignore.
With elections looming, it looked very much like the closure of the children’s centres was a bridge too far for some politicians.
Mr Pervez said the about-turn was because of a ‘moral duty’ to protect the most vulnerable people in our communities.
This, of course, begged the question why Heathside House was even considered for closure. Clearly, moral duty was on annual leave the day that decision was taken.
The truth is that in an ideal world, none of the council-run facilities would have been shut down and nobody would have been made redundant.
However, the maths simply didn’t add up and Mr Pervez and his colleagues faced some very unpalatable decisions.
That the children’s centres were spared offers one glimmer of hope because they are exactly the kind of invaluable learning resources that people with young families need in a city with desperately low levels of academic achievement and an aspirational vacuum.
These centres may help some families to escape the poverty trap that many now find themselves in.
They may also help other families to recognise that there is a cost to society when you have excessive numbers of children – something the couple in Meir with seven kids seemed oblivious to.
Set against the backdrop of a budget settlement which necessitated cuts totalling £36 million, Thursday’s programme underlined one thing: there were no winners round here – only victims and messengers to be shot.
Meanwhile, the real tragedy is that just over 130 miles away in Westminster where Stoke-on-Trent’s measly and unfair budget settlement was decided, none of this even registers.
Part two of The Day The Town Hall Shrank airs on BBC4 tonight at 9pm.

Remembering when Bonfire Night wasn’t a week-long noise nuisance

I’ve never been a huge fan of Guy Fawkes’ Night – or Bonfire Night, if your prefer.

As a child it was something of a non-event in that my parents instead gave me extra pocket money rather than investing in stuff which quite literally went up in smoke.

Thus, from the late Seventies to the mid-Eighties my younger brother Matt and I could be found on the evening of November 5 sitting on the ottoman and staring up at the sky through the bay window in mum and dad’s bedroom.

We watched for free the fireworks being let off from neighbour’s gardens and the distant bonfires.

The explosions may have been smaller and quieter but in truth I was frightened to death of sparklers and preferred to spend any money I had on toy soldiers or Panini stickers.

Back then, of course, Bonfire Night wasn’t the week-long noise nuisance it is now and so November 5 was rather special.

People didn’t tend to let off fireworks at weddings, for Diwali or the Chinese New Year or, indeed, store in their shed enough explosives for their New Year’s Eve celebrations to take out a Challenger tank.

These days anyone with a pet dog, like yours truly, will be seriously considering sedating them for several days in order to minimise the stress caused by the modern-day equivalent of The Blitz.

I recall small community bonfires such as one I attended at Smallthorne WMC but genuinely had no concept that events such as Betley Bonfire attracted thousands of people every year.

What had begun at Betley Court Farm in the 1950s as annual thank you from the farmer to his customers had, by the late Seventies, become a huge money-spinner for local charities attracting upwards of 12,000 people – depending on the weather.

Around that time Stoke-on-Trent’s first council-run bonfire and fireworks display was being staged at Fenton Recreation Ground – as part of a concerted attempt by local authorities to help reduce the number of casualties in backyards and on waste ground.

Meanwhile, the Government was bombarding us with public information adverts on telly which scarred a generation.

Many will remember the one, presumably narrated by Harry Enfield’s Mr Cholmondley-Warner, which started with the words: “There’s a child who’s life has changed in the last year…”

It went on to tell how the boy in question, whose face was obscured, couldn’t play football or cross the road unaided and wouldn’t be able to enjoy Bonfire Night because someone had thrown a firework at him.

Find it on the internet – I guarantee you it’s sure to bring back the nightmares from your childhood.

These days my children are old enough to stay up and appreciate November 5 – and I always make sure I reiterate the origins of this peculiarly British celebration. That is that we celebrate the foiling of a plot by a terrorist to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill the King.

Or, depending on your view of life, the capture of “the last man to enter Parliament with honourable intentions.”

Pick up a copy of the Weekend Sentinel every Saturday for 12 pages of nostalgia

Steve proud of the way old North Staffs Poly has scrubbed up

Few are better qualified to comment on the momentous changes taking place within the city’s University Quarter (UniQ) than Dr Steve Wyn Williams.

He’s a man who talks my language. A language that acknowledges that there was life before email and mobile telephones.

Earlier this week The Sentinel produced a special 16-page supplement updating people on the multi-million pound UniQ development.

It coincided with the official opening of the new £30m Science and Technology Centre on Leek Road – the UniQ’s latest piece of education-led regeneration which is transforming Hanley west, Shelton and Stoke.

The UniQ project is a partnership between Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent College, the City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College and Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

It aims to raise aspirations and levels of educational attainment among the people of North Staffordshire in order to make them more employable and while, at the same time, improving the area between Stoke Railway Station and the city centre.

It’s the most significant, focused regeneration project the city has seen since the 1986 Garden Festival and the results, thus far, are spectacular.

The UniQ is creating a distinct, ‘one-campus’ feel for university and college students alike and impressing visitors (and the locals) with stunning new architecture.

It is a far cry from when Steve first joined the staff at was the old North Staffs Polytechnic back in 1988.

He said: “It’s amazing really. These new buildings are making a statement. They are cutting-edge facilities and are really enhancing the learning experience for students.”

Steve, originally from North Wales, first moved to North Staffordshire 34 years ago when he took up a post at Keele University.

A geographer, he worked as a demonstrator for students at Keele – teaching them everything from map reading to data inspection skills.

Eight years later he joined North Staffs Poly as a lecturer in Geography.

He said: “I think it was a more relaxed time. Because the place was much smaller and had fewer students (5,000 to 7,000) there was also very much a community feel to it.

“I recall that everyone seemed to smoke back then – in the corridors, the bars and even the lecture theatres.

“You’d see lecturers puffing away as they taught. Indeed, the whole place seemed to be under a constant fog.”

Now aged 59, Steve has risen through the ranks to become first Head of Geography and is now Dean of Academic Policy and Development.

However, he recalls his early days at the old Poly, which became Staffordshire University in 1992, with fondness.

He said: “When I came here in the late 1980s we are talking about the very early days of computing. We’d write memos to colleagues and students and stick them in pigeon-holes and then wait a week for a response.

“The students themselves would carry around bags containing big, heavy text books which they would actually have to read.

“Students received grants, of course, and there was a sense that they felt privileged to be at studying at the Poly university because only a minority went on to higher education at that time.

“Nowadays, of course, around 40 per cent of school and college leavers go on to receive a university education which, in itself, presents different challenges.”

Nowadays Staffordshire University is a truly international place of study, looking after around 20,000 students, 2,850 of whom at the Stoke campus are from overseas.

Steve said: “We are acutely aware that students are now our customers. We like to view them as customer-partners because while they are paying to come here and study it can only be a success for them if they are prepared to put the work in.

“The university has always had a reputation for delivering courses which give students skills which are perhaps more vocational-based and enhance their employability skills and, given the current climate, that has never been more important.”

Steve added: “I’m very passionate about the university and our students and I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved with the UniQ project for several years now.

“Seeing the changes taking place, it makes me incredibly proud to have contributed in some small way and that the university I work for has such wonderful facilities and ambition.”

Pick up a copy of the Weekend Sentinel every Saturday for 12 pages of nostalgia

A cautious welcome to Vale’s (new) preferred bidders


This time there will be no counting of chickens. The champagne will remain well and truly on ice for several months yet and that is no bad thing.

Today’s public confirmation of Paul Wildes and his business partner Norman Smurthwaite as the new preferred bidders for Port Vale Football Club is, however, a welcome step in the right direction.

Whether or not the deal will actually happen and whether or not Mr Wildes and Mr Smurthwaite have the money to lead the troubled League Two club into a bright new era remains to be seen.

They’ve certainly got their work cut out to win over a fanbase which has been lied to, misled and spectacularly let down in the last few years.

After the previous anointed one, Lancashire businessman Keith Ryder, did a Lord Lucan there was a lot of head-scratching and a good deal of finger-pointing.

A minority of Vale fans blamed the administrators and the Supporters’ Club for being ‘taken-in’ by Ryder.

In fact, Bob Young from administrators Begbies Traynor, subsequently admitted that he had perhaps given the first preferred bidder too much time to come up with the cash.

But hindsight is a wonderful thing and, in fairness to the administrators and the Supporters’ Club, no-one can deny that Ryder had given every indication he wanted to do the deal.

After all, why would he give up his non-refundable deposit of £60,000, and shell out tens of thousands of pounds more in paying for things like half of the monthly wages bill if he didn’t intend to go through with the takeover?

I met Keith Ryder privately three times and found him to be a perfectly decent, plausible and candid bloke.

As did the vast majority of the 500 plus Vale supporters who listened to him speak at a fans’ forum event.

Yes, I had my reservations about a man who didn’t seem to exist on the internet and who didn’t have what I would call ‘a proper job’.

But despite what conspiracy theorists and know-it-alls might say after the event, there really was nothing to indicate that Ryder would do an 11th-hour vanishing act.

The lesson that many of us have learned by closely following the Port Vale saga is that football clubs tend to attract opportunists, egos and eccentrics.

Unfortunately, the likes of Stoke City Chairman Peter Coates – a local man with a passion for his boyhood club and, crucially, the brass to match his ambition – are extremely rare.

Thus, after the unmitigated disaster of the fan-owned club experiment, the Vale is forced to take its chances with businesspeople who see potential in the club and believe they can turn a profit down the line.

There’s nothing wrong with that. Indeed, most supporters will tell you that what Vale is actually crying out for is hard-nosed business people with some commercial know-how.

I hope Paul Wildes and Norman Smurthwaite are two such blokes and I know the majority of fans will give them a fair hearing and a cautious welcome – irrespective of what has happened in the last couple of years.

One of the positives to come out of this troubled time is that Vale fans have, for the most part, pulled together and become critical friends of their club.

Many are well-read, well-informed and care enough to devote countless hours to scrutinising developments at Vale Park – both on and off the field.

However, this is a double-edged sword and internet forums inevitably attract a minority of attention-seekers, troublemakers and people with axes to grind.

Thus Mr Wilde’s character, business interests and personal wealth have already been debated to death before he’s even been unveiled to the media.

The fact is, whether we like it or not, Port Vale is a club in administration and we’ll get what we’re given by the administrators whose job it is to seek the best deal for the creditors.

I actually think Begbies Traynor deserve enormous credit for agreeing with Stoke-on-Trent City Council to cap their fees – effectively working for several months for no additional money.

Had Port Vale not been dealing with administrators who are local to the area and had it not been for the support of the council I dare say we wouldn’t have two professional clubs in the Potteries anymore.

Today Paul Wildes, the man who wanted to take control of Darlington not so long ago, will be presented to Vale supporters experiencing a whole range of emotions – from hope to fear and suspicion all over again.

I am sure he and his business partner are well aware that their would-be customers have had a really rough time in recent years.

Fingers crossed, the first thing they will do is reassure ordinary Vale fans of their intentions regarding the club the supporters have fought so hard to save.

I have to say I was heartened by yesterday’s statement about holding a fans’ forum as it shows they clearly understand the need to invest time and effort in building up trust.

I hope they also realise that it would be commercial suicide for them to become friendly with any previous members of the board of directors at Port Vale or for these individuals to be seen swanning around the ground again as if they own the place.

Thankfully, they have already had the good sense to distance themselves from previous bidders for the club which is a smart move.

The new men will know that the current squad is doing a remarkable job under difficult circumstances and I hope Messrs Wildes and Smurthwaite will work to tie players down on proper contracts as soon as possible.

I think most of us reckon this Vale side has a genuine shot at promotion if we can protect what we’ve got and strengthen in key areas. Investing in the squad is a sure-fire way of the preferred bidders earning the goodwill of fans who have been starved of success for so long.

Presumably, Mr Wildes and Mr Smurthwaite realise that Micky Adams is a good manager who, together with his back room staff, is doing a tremendous job while the club remains in administration.

Micky and his team were led up the garden path by previous directors and badly let down by the first preferred bidder.

That being the case, I hope the new men don’t mess the gaffer around.

Finally, when I meet them today, I will tell Mr Wildes and Mr Smurthwaite that on Saturday, November 17, a statue honouring Port Vale’s greatest servant – Roy Sproson – will go up at Vale Park.

I am sure they will understand that this is an important day for many reasons and that the unveiling of this sculpture, funded entirely by Vale supporters, symbolises that this is a club with a proud heritage and an extremely passionate and loyal fan base.

I would simply ask, therefore, that the preferred bidders help us make it a day to remember.

Read my Port Vale articles every Friday during the season in The Sentinel

Why it was wrong to find Coleman guilty over right-wing blog

If you had been outside Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court on Friday you would have witnessed Michael Coleman playing to the gallery.
Just minutes after receiving a suspended eight-month sentence after being convicted of racially-aggravated harrassment, the former BNP city councillor was in full flow.
He vowed to continue posting political ‘articles’ (I use that term loosely) to his blog and said he believed it would eventually lead to his imprisonment.
Playing the martyr with the assurance of someone who possesses an Equity card, he said he was “a free-born Englishman” who will be damned if he will see hard-won freedoms secured by his forefathers in two world wars taken away.
Sadly, all Friday’s sentencing and the previous conviction have done is raised Coleman’s profile and given him a platform for his bizarre views.
When the voters of the Potteries did us all a favour by booting out him and his BNP cronies last year, it also starved them of the oxygen of publicity. Now he’s news again.
Whereas before a few thousand people may have visited his blog to play ‘spot the spelling mistake’ and raise their eyebrows at his unusual ideas, his prosecution has sadly served to increase visitors to the obscure Stoke Patriot website.
Anyone who believes the riots which swept London and other UK cities last summer exemplified ‘the difference in personality, perceptions and values of people of the darker races and ourselves’ is clearly talking nonsense and didn’t read the news reports at the time.
Anyone who accuses the city council of overseeing a ‘complete population replacement programme – darkies in, whites out’, is clearly in a very small minority. As well as being plain daft.
However, in spite of his repulsive, right-wing views, Michael Coleman’s prosecution was – in my view – misguided and could well do more harm than good.
The posts on his blog may be obnoxious but, in spite of the court’s decision, I just can’t see them inciting others to racial harrassment.
Frankly, they are more likely to incite someone to reach for a dictionary or the sick bucket.
As a result of his suspended sentence, Coleman is barred from standing in a local council election for five years.
Given that he was reported to the police by Labour councillor Joy Garner this immediately makes her actions seem politically-motivated, even though I’m sure they weren’t.
The bigger problem here is that the internet has given everyone a voice and the policing of blogs and the like is nigh on impossible.
If it was right to prosecute Michael Coleman then I would suggest that there but for the grace of God go countless thousands of other individuals who perhaps won’t appear in court because they aren’t on the radar of someone like Mrs Garner.
Uncomfortable as it may be for us to admit, I think Coleman is right in one respect: His conviction poses serious questions about our personal freedoms and the right to free speech.
Voltaire’s oft-quoted statement: “I may disagree with what you say but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it,” comes to mind here.
The fact is we live in a democracy and a free country which is proud of being tolerant and a safe haven for the persecuted and peoples of other races, cultures and creeds.
I think our reputation as this bastion of tolerance is being somewhat undermined by the inability of everything from our judicial system to our national sport’s governing bodies to bring some common sense into the racism debate.
Different rules and standards seem to be being applied across the board – just take the FA’s kangaroo courts as an example.
It seems you get stiffer sentences these days for offending someone on the internet than you do for burgling a person’s home or mugging them in the street.
Where’s the logic in that?
I don’t, in any way, condone or defend Michael Coleman’s bizarre views but I can’t help but feel that – as a society – we should be able to cope with his minority view without resorting to criminal prosecutions.
Wrong he may be, but a danger to society who is inciting racial hatred? I don’t think so. Only if you let him.
The bigger danger, if you ask me, is the thought police’s propensity to overreact when anyone refuses to spout the vision of Britain being some sort of multi-cultural utopia.
I would suggest it is precisely the treatment dished out to Michael Coleman which is likely to get right-thinking people’s backs up and make them wonder whether they may be a point to his ravings.